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P'tex focus on brands, consumer

Strengthening its branded positions and working more proactively with retailers are key agenda items for Pillowtex going forward, chairman and ceo David Perdue said during last week's second quarter conference call.

Although he characterized the mill's Royal Velvet and Charisma brands as "extremely healthy right now," he acknowledged that the Fieldcrest and Cannon labels need focus and a clear segment strategy. The company's overarching goal is to position each of the four as a differentiated product aimed at a distinct channel.

The company has instituted two major market research programs to help identify promising consumer segments and will craft products based on those findings. Although one or two new items resulting from that process might be ready for the upcoming October home textiles market in New York, the full impact won't be apparent until the back half of 2003, Perdue said.

"We are really going to build on the history we enjoy with several brands," Perdue said. "That gives us a great opportunity to reconnect with consumers in a way we haven't recently."

To that end, Perdue added that he would like to see anywhere from 4 percent to 7 percent of Pillowtex's net revenue applied directly to its marketing efforts. That channel- and brand-unique story will extend to both in-store and consumer marketing initiatives, he said.

"Instead of presenting [retailers with] what we think our universe is, we want to work with them with what we know about our consumers. Then we can be a value-added resource," Perdue said. "Other than that, they'll find the product with the lowest price, put it on the shelf and compete on price only. And we all know where that ends up."

He acknowledged that pricing pressure is a challenge across every segment of retail, adding that expanding private label programs are also a significant competitive factor.

Perdue also said that Pillowtex would find the right sourcing balance in the future, a balance the company does not currently have.

"I'm talking about an evolution, not a revolution," Perdue said.

He added that the company's backers are on board with the view and understand that there will be no quick fix. "I think they have the appetite to stay with us through what's going to have to be done here to turn this thing around," he said.

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