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New American Century Home: chelsea frank

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, April 9, 2007

With last month's acquisition of luxury furniture manufacturer Jeffco International, American Century Home Fabrics has been renamed and organized into several specific business units.

chelsea frank Group is the new corporate name as well as the umbrella for a major business thrust into the interior design and luxury retail market, said Jason Jiang, ceo of the company. chelsea frank launched its luxury bedding program last year and debuted its major showroom in the Suites at Market Square at last month's High Point market.

In an interview during the market, Jiang revealed that the new company name comprises the names of his 11-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son, both of whom are expected to join the family business.

The chelsea frank bedding program will have a new product launch every three months with a second generation scheduled for an August launch, he said.

On May 15, chelsea frank will launch a new collection of decorative fabrics for the interior design trade. "We started jobber books in 2003. The focus was on re-upholstery shops, but we had a lack of experience and a wrong direction, so we're starting over again. We now have a much stronger team. In Chinese we say, 'A thousand journeys start from the first step'," Jiang said.

The new fabrics collection will have about 500 SKUs and "represent a major upgrading — and they're not just upholstery goods but multi-purpose as well," Jiang added.

The chelsea frank business managers, including the Jeffco unit, are David Lappert, senior vp; Peter Gallagher, senior vp for sales and marketing; and a dedicated group of designers, he noted. By merging the high-end chelsea frank product with Jeffco, Jiang pointed out, "We offer a one-stop shopping service for that market."

To support the growth efforts of chelsea frank, Jiang plans to open interior designer showrooms in San Francisco, the D & D Building in New York, and DCOTA (Design Center of the Americas).

American Century Home Fabrics continues as the decorative fabrics arm for the already established commercial customers for both the fabrics and the cut-and-sew product produced in China, Jiang explained. Tom Finneran is president of this division. American Century Home Bedding, headed by Jeff Ganz, focuses on the medium to higher end retail mainstream and is showcased at 7 West in New York.

Jason Jay, another new brand, will debut in a series of fabric books for the jobbing trade, geared more towards the international market — a key target for the company — as well as for company retail stores in China.

The flagship first store, in Shanghai, is in response to a strong and growing market for home furnishings in China, Jiang emphasized. Plans call for 10 to 15 locations in two years, "but we will be very careful." The brand name used in China is Bika. "It is famous in Shanghai and means 'North Carolina' in Chinese." The 6,000-square-foot store features both furniture and chelsea frank bedding. The furniture currently is Australian, but it soon will be converted to Jeffco product, Jiang related.

In May, the company expects to open a 1.5 million-square-foot factory in Hangzhou that will produce both chelsea frank bedding and Jeffco furniture. "We will bring the Jeffco technical people there to show the people the manufacturing techniques," he explained.

"The beauty of our business is that we have family working in China," a key to the company's growth strategy, he emphasized.

The company expects to hit $200 million in three years, with $50 million of that coming from the jobber business, he said. The company currently has annual revenues of $120 million. Investing in the future is key, he noted: "We have to spend so much in advance. I'm looking out five to 10 years for returns."

Critical to the growth strategy, Jiang pointed out, "is that we must be very careful to distinguish between American Century Home and chelsea frank."

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