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Cecile Corral

Loss of Players Created Room in the Kitchen

New York — The kitchen textiles industry held its ground in 2004, gaining a modest 1.8 percent in sales to $560 million.

Not surprisingly, discount department stores rang in the most sales for kitchen textiles last year, holding on to more than half of the market — 58 percent — at $324.8 million. Tied for second place were the mid-tier department stores and the home textiles specialty chains, each at 15 percent, or $84 million.

Sales by sub-category also held steady. Kitchen towels remained the product mix driver at 50 percent of the total business, with $280 million in sales.

While sales, distribution and product mix percentage rates did not experience much shifting compared with prior years, there was plenty of change.

In 2004, the supply chain fragmented, with private label products capturing more of the shelf space and direct importing activity by retailers increasing.

Emblematic of that shift was the disappearance of some major suppliers from the landscape.

First, Somerset, Ky.-based Cecil Saydah Co. — 2003's ranked as the third largest U.S. supplier with $48 million in sales for kitchen textiles — went up for sale in the summer and finished selling off all its parts by the fall. Glenoit LLC bought out its rug and part of its kitchen textiles businesses and Town and Country Living acquired some key account programs in kitchen textiles and table linens.

Soon afterward, by yearend, domestic manufacturer and longtime category player Laurinburg, N.C.-based Charles Craft announced it was exiting the business at the hands of fierce competition from importers and was redirecting its focus toward its yarn and craft businesses. The company for a long time held the number five spot on the list of top U.S. suppliers, with $18 million in sales in 2003.

The vacancies posed opportunities not only for major players, like Town and Country and Glenoit that took over pieces of the businesses, but helped smaller companies make strides.

The vacancies also offered opportunities to a host of overseas suppliers stepping in to capture retail-direct business.

“With the absences of Cecil Saydah and Charles Craft last year, other sources like us began getting looked at more seriously. And it happened with some of the major customers,” said Frank Petronzio, owner and president of Anchor Home.

“I think what happened is that those of us here were strengthened by the absence of others,” Petronzio continued. “And we need to focus on our reason for existence — do our jobs better.”

Keeping their margins of error to a minimum, some suppliers found new methods to remain relevant to their retail customers last year. And in some cases, it meant reinventing themselves.

Those with one foot overseas — specifically, sourcing operations and manufacturing partnerships in China, India, Pakistan and elsewhere — developed direct importing services for retailers. Avonhome and Town and Country are just two suppliers now offering this service.

Distribution Channels
2004 Total: $560 million, up 1.8%

in $millions % of total 2004 sales
*Includes home improvement centers, military exchanges and gift/home accent stores.
Discount Department Stores 58% $324.8
Mid-priced chains 15 84.0
Home textiles specialty chains 15 84.0
Off-price chains 3 16.8
Variety/close-out chains 3 16.8
Warehouse clubs 2 11.2
Department stores 1 5.6
Single unit specialty stores 1 5.6
Direct-to-consumer 1 5.6
Other* 1 5.6

Merchandise Mix

in $millions % of total 2004 sales
Kitchen towels 50% $280.0
Potholders/mitts 22 123.2
Dishcloths 18 100.8
Chairpads 9 50.4
Other 1 5.6

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