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Pillowtex invests in key brand revival

After almost a year in Chapter 11, Pillowtex Corporation may soon be ready to emerge with a new image and with many of its key brands undergoing a much-needed revitalization.

The hiring of Gretchen Dale less than two months ago was apparently the first step in the process and means more than just the addition of another executive to the mill's management structure.

Dale, who was hired for the newly created position of senior vp, design and new product development, said some major changes are in store for four of the Kannapolis, NC-based mill's key brands. The changes, she explained, are the result of a study commissioned by Pillowtex and conducted by an independent company to examine the company's image and relationship with consumers and retailers.

Among the changes implemented is the designation of a team leader for each of the Charisma, Royal Velvet, Fieldcrest and Cannon brands. This is a major switch away from Pillowtex's old organization, which had named design directors for each category. Now, Dale said, since each brand now its own design director, each will have its own personality and feeling.

Starting immediately, Mij Adams will be the vp, design for Charisma, David Williams will be design director for Fieldcrest, Patricia Feiwel will be design director for Royal Velvet and Tom McElroy will be vp, product design for Cannon.

"Part of our whole emphasis will be to go after a brand strategy," Dale told HTT. "We're going to take a lot more care of our brands now."

All four of the brands will also be relaunched, with Charisma and Royal Velvet leading the way this fall. Joining them in a smaller way will be Fieldcrest, while Cannon will be relaunched in time for the April market.

The 310-count line of Charisma sheets will be taken off shelves and be replaced by a new 360-count construction. In addition, the Charisma Select 360-count line will be stepped up to a much more luxurious 420-count.

Under the Royal Velvet name, a new Intrigue sheet will be unveiled, which will feature a 300-count dobby weave construction with surface texture and be imported from Italy.

"We're moving the bar up and really going after that luxury business," Dale said.

Also part of Pillowtex's new plan will be a major focus on a bridal program, which involved the hiring of Faye Musselman as manager of bridal and special events marketing. That move, Dale said, was made to introduce the Royal Velvet name to newlyweds in order to build brand loyalty earlier.

Also ready to roll for next year are consumer advertising campaigns for Charisma, Royal Velvet and Cannon. Charisma stores within stores are also in development, as is a stand-alone Charisma retail store possibly located in New York.

"I'd like to see us be a totally proactive, entrepreneurial company where we are totally innovative in what we do," Dale said about Pillowtex's future. "It's all about innovation now, and customer intimacy on the retailer side. We really need to be about those things, and these changes will help us get there."

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