Thread counts on the rise

Marvin Lazaro, Cynthia Myers, March 30, 2001

NEW YORK-While what colors, patterns or constructions are hot for bedding this spring market may be a source of debate among manufacturers, what consumers want is crystal clear. When it comes to what covers their beds, consumers want the good stuff.

Whether it's higher thread count sheeting or more opulent top-of-the-bed ensembles, consumers are attracted not just to what looks good; but what feels good against their skin once they get into bed.

"It's the perceived value of what the product is, not just how it looks, that attracts people," said Maureen Granger, vp, marketing, Haywin Textile Products Inc.

In their efforts to accommodate consumers, many manufacturers have opted to ramp up their thread counts, while at the same time adopting 100 percent cotton in a variety of constructions, for their sheeting programs. WestPoint Stevens, Springs Industries, Divatex Home Fashions and Hollander Home Fashions, among others, will all unveil higher thread count sheets. A new 400-count, 100 percent cotton sateen line will be new for Springs this market under its Wamsutta label. WestPoint Stevens will build on last year's introduction of the better-quality Seduction towel by debuting the 310-count Seduction sheet, a 70 percent Egyptian cotton, 30 percent modal contruction. While the Boca Raton, FL-based Hollander will introduce a 310-count, 100 percent cotton sateen sheet for its Vendome collection bedding. Divatex, based here, will lead its line with a new 500-count, 100 percent cotton sateen sheet program

"We're taking the approach that luxury is here and now and it's for everybody," said Avi Cohen, president, Divatex. "And people should have access to that."

Nancy Webster, vp, creative development, Springs bed and bath division, said the Fort Mill, SC-based home textiles manufacturer saw the luxury category as a constantly growing one. She attributed the growth to a rapidly growing Baby Boomer generation to which "the ability to luxuriate is very important."

Going hand in hand with the higher thread counts is the introduction of more luxurious, or more luxurious looking, top-of-the-bed ensembles. Glenda Heffer, design director, Hollander, felt various shades of gold and deeper colors lend a more opulent look while Susan Opalewski, vp, director of design, bedding division, CHF, felt not just gold, but the metallic neutrals as well as a combination of soft and deep end colors mixed together evoke a more elegant feeling.

"It's all about mixing and matching different colors and fabrications," Heffer said about the various look which consumers are attracted to now.

For its part, Webster said shiny and shimmery looks with contrasting matte and dull finishes are big looks for Springs this market, while lots of shades from the red family as well as soft and enriched blues will make a strong showing. CHF will also be showing rich blues and greens in ocean shades as well as a red story and tonal palette of pinks, purples and lavenders. Bright colors, such as yellows and oranges, is the direction Granger and Gross felt the market is taking, away from the pastels which have been popular for so long.

"People are having more fun with color now," Granger said. "It's not just your basic palettes anymore."

As top-of-the-bed ensembles and sheeting programs get more opulent or gain more threads per square inch, price points will reflect the step up in constructions.

Webster said that because companies were adding much more value to their products, they would see price increases. Granger felt the influx of better goods from manufacturers and ultimately retailers, coupled with much better educated consumers, could lead to price points decreasing slightly.

Opalewski and Gross, however, believe that consumers will balk somewhere along the line, no matter how high thread counts become or how much ensembles are enriched.

"There's always a cap in terms of a 'magic price point,' regardless of thread count," Opalewski said. "Consumers are willing to spend the extra money, but it depends on how far the jump up is."

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