Westgate Adds Quaker, Flexes Muscle

Westgate has accelerated its pursuit of the global home furnishings market, buying the Brazilian assets of now-defunct Quaker Fabrics.

The company is also upping investments in China.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court approved Westgate's purchase of Quaker Textil Do Brasil LTDA, based in Sao Paolo, this month. Quaker Fabrics, which filed for bankruptcy in August 2007, had been one of the world's largest manufacturers of upholstery fabrics.

"We are pleased to add the assets and distribution of Quaker Brazil to our global operation," asserted David Li, ceo. "This will enhance Westgate's status as a worldwide supplier of decorative fabrics and finished home fashions."

Currently, Westgate operates international distribution centers in Shanghai, Belgium and Mexico, as well as a 275,000-square-foot U.S. distribution center in Gaffney, S.C. "The purchase of Quaker Brazil gives us a new distribution center in Sao Paolo, which will enable us to service accounts throughout South America," Li explained.

Rodrigo Prieto, who served as general manager of Quaker Brazil, will continue in that role, reporting to Li and Billy DeSousa, vp of international sales. Osvaldo Schenquerman, Westgate regional sales manager based in Argentina, will continue to manage Westgate's exports to Central and South America, except Brazil. Schenquerman reports to DeSousa.

The Quaker brand name is included in the purchase.

"Quaker Brazil remains an extremely well-respected and important brand name in decorative fabrics in Brazil," Li said. "The Brazilian subsidiary has been performing very well, but unfortunately was caught up in the bankruptcy of the parent company."

Westgate will market decorative fabrics under the Quaker brand in Brazil. "We also will be expanding the assortment to include home fashions and accessories by the end of the year," Li commented. "We feel this will be an important addition to our international business, and helps facilitate our growth in the global arena."

Elsewhere, Westgate continues to build up its capabilities.

In China, the company recently purchased a large number of state-of-the-art embroidery machines to support its intricate embroidery designs in both fabrics and finished products. Westgate is also expanding silk and faux silk constructions in all categories of merchandise, and combining embroidery with silk and embroidery with jacquards in its newer designs.

The company is investing heavily in logistics and supply chain improvements. Jack Cobb, president of the Westgate decorative fabric division, has taken on the additional responsibilities of coo. "Jack is in charge of overseeing our entire supply chain," said Li. "Having one person in charge allows us to be more streamlined and to ensure superior service and delivery to all of our customers."

"We have added new computer systems and implemented new logistics software, which enables us to control our costs at every stage of the manufacturing process, from raw materials through finished products," added Li. "This allows us to offer competitive prices on all of our merchandise, while at the same time, maintaining our high quality standards."

The company had a strong 2007, Li said, with sales up 30% in home fashions and accessories. Total annual sales passed $160 million, he said.

Li credits a combination of a new management team headed by Tom Coughlin, energetic product development and supply chain improvements as factors driving the company's rapid expansion.

"We are experiencing major growth in our decorative bedding area, especially among specialty chains and department stores," he explained. "Our window treatments are placed very well, and our substantial decorative pillow business continues to expand. We also are opening up new areas of distribution with our pet beds and accessories."

"Additionally," Li said, "we introduced our first collection of bath products last year and started shipping in the last quarter."

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