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Rollin' the dye-color starts to cook

White still tops, but trends tack to richer hues

BCST Staff -- Home Textiles Today, March 5, 2001

NEW YORK -The best-selling solid colors are still very much grounded in neutrals, but color continued to gain headway across a range of important solid-color home textiles programs, according to HTT's annual solid color trend study.

An ivory or white proved the best-selling solid color in seven standard products last year, up from six the previous year. Those categories included: Bardwil's Royal Velvet table linen, Pillowtex's Royal Velvet towels, Pillowtex's Royal Velvet Supreme Pima blankets, High Country Linens' Boulevard duvet covers, Spring's Wamsutta 250-count Egyptian sheets, S. Lichtenberg's Tangiers draperies and Pillowtex's Cannon comforter.

Nonetheless, richer colors are moving up the rankings in the top five. It demonstrates the continuation of the cycle that began two years ago when the market began moving away from "beige bondage," according to Bob Hamilton, vp, advertising, Pillowtex.

"We're seeing a formalization and an increasing complexity in what are now the bright, more exciting colors," Hamilton added. "Colors are moving from the primary to the more enriched. I think that also bears on the decorative attitude of the culture today."

By way of example, Waverly's cotton jacquard solid Kensington Coral this year replaces its more neutral-toned Glosheen fabric line as the ranking's fabric standard. A younger, fresher line, Kensington is available in 20 colors.

The result: Kensington's ruby, primrose and pistachio hold the top three spots that last year went to Glosheen's white, antique and nugget.

"Red has gotten a tremendous amount of play in the last six months to a year," said Pamela Maffei-Toolan, direction of design for Waverly Lifestyle.

In some cases, color is saturating the market even where it isn't evident in the rankings. Although white, natural and linen comprise three of the top five best selling colors for Pillowtex's Royal Velvet Supreme, delicate colors are attracting attention in the market, said Ken Hynes, marketing manager, blanket division.

"The blanket palette seems to be growing more and more pastel. Retailers are asking for it," he said.

For Brentwood Original's chenille decorative pillows, the five top bestsellers cap off a wave of color activity further down the ranking.

"Although they aren't in my top five, it would not do justice if I didn't mention that our tropical colors did extremely well," said Loren Sweet, vp and national sales manager. "They did fly off the shelves, but it was more of a one-shot deal for most people."

In table linens, where white dropped from the best-selling color in 1999 to the sixth bestseller in 2000, Bardwil executive vp Gretchen Dale attributed the shift to making the Royal Velvet line more casual.

In the place of white, darker hues such as indigo and peridot "have made a big jump," she said. She also noted that greens with yellow undertones are increasingly popular among consumers.

Not surprising, color is performing nicely in the kitchen textiles area as well for John Ritzenthaler Company's branded Ritzenthaler line. Ritzenthaler replaces the Gourmet Graphics on the ranking, a product that is no longer being made.

"Our top solid colors haven't changed a whole lot, " said Howard "Chip" Steidle Jr., vp, sales and marketing. "But the smoke blue seemed to be improving last year, I guess because it's a good color." Steidle also said green has been a top color "for a long time-it's a very strong color for us."

At S. Lichtenberg, the top-selling colors for its Tangiers chintz draperies are proving to have a long shelf life-whether neutral or deeper tones.

"White is very important because of the cleanliness; and it's hot and fashionable in every category," noted Amanda Houck, director of product design. "Burgundy has been hot for a very long time. It's very rich and deep, and it's very easy to decorate with." Houck credits the animal print trend with driving sales of black draperies, adding that forest has also performed solidly over time.

Burlington's Safari drapery program also finds neutrals in the lead, and they remain very strong, said Myron Bass, vp, marketing, windows.

"Pine is doing very well, but it's more of a traditional green. Moss, a green tone, has moved up from pine because the greens are going more to the yellow side," he added. "Ink black fills a void that had existed in our line, and it's doing very well."

Still, neutrals must be given their due for reliability, consistency and popularity among consumers.

White and ivory continue to lead the best-selling colors in Wamsutta's sheeting program because "those are pretty much the basics," said Tim Landers, Springs' Wamsutta sheet product manager. The other three hues in the ranking-medium blue, medium green and yellow-are "nice, sophisticated colors that aren't real, real light or real, real dark. Basically, they're good complements."

High Country Linens won't argue with the power of white either, particularly where its Boulevard duvet covers are concerned. New colors sage and amethyst are getting a good response, but "white just dominates our sales," said Tom Ferrisi, president, Boulevard.

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