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Davidson name 'splits' in favor of Abouchar

Marvin Lazaro, Staff Staff -- Home Textiles Today, November 19, 2001

Huntersville, NC — Less than four years after striking out on its own and blazing a path down the sourcing highway, the Davidson Cotton Co. name will no longer be seen on retail shelves.

According to Jim Fitzgibbons, chairman and co-founder of the company, the Davidson name will "only appear on checks." Taking its place will be the The Abouchar Co. name, under which Davidson will now be doing its business.

"I think essentially what's happened is we've pared down the business so much that the only thing we've got left is Abouchar," Fitzgibbons told Home Textiles Today, addressing rumors that Davidson had gone out of business. "We've decided to function as Abouchar and use the Abouchar name.

"The Abouchar name has been around for 70 years, and that business is in pretty good shape," Fitzgibbons added.

Fitzgibbons had purchased J. Abouchar & Sons Inc., an embellished towel source, in April 1999. Its name was changed shortly thereafter to The Abouchar Co.

Asked about the decision to change the operating name, Fitzgibbons said that when Davidson opted to exit the sourcing business this past May, several retailers felt the company was abandoning them. As a result, the Davidson name became more of a hindrance than a help. Fitzgibbons added that Davidson was "still winding down, liquidating inventory and collecting receivables."

Fitzgibbons also said Davidson will soon separate from the Atrivm and Joseph Abboud licenses, and each "is going their own way."

According to Charlie Schlang, executive vp of Davidson and president of Induter USA, the parent company of Atrivm, Atrivm will take the entire manufacturing license for the Abboud line with it, including the bath portion that had been sub-licensed to Davidson.

"We've now taken that back, and we'll be doing that in-house," he said.

Schlang, like Induter USA, will also part ways with Davidson in an amicable split. Schlang declined to speak about his future plans, but he did say negotiations were in progress.

At one point, Davidson had been on the fast track to success. In addition to recognizing the potential of the world's sourcing resources and buying Abouchar, Davidson had signed a long-term distribution deal with Spanish bedding supplier Atrivm in August 1998 and subsequently landed the license for Joseph Abboud in November of the same year. Davidson, through Atrivm, had also acquired a sheet plant in Valencia, Spain, in January '99 whose manufacturing was dedicated mainly to Davidson's U.S. market. But after having its plan to buy Leshner Mills stymied by Pillowtex Corp., Davidson opted to build its own manufacturing facility in Monterrey, Mexico.

Schlang, who joined Davidson from Leshner Mills, said the company's inability to purchase Leshner ultimately led to Davidson's present trouble. Had Davidson purchased Leshner, Schlang said, then Crown Crafts Investment Co. would not have pulled its support from Davidson's plans to build a towel plant in Mexico — plans that ultimately failed and, in turn, led to Davidson's withdrawal from the sourcing market.

Davidson was founded in February 1998 by Fitzgibbons and Bob Dellinger, both of whom had been executives with Fieldcrest Cannon. Joining them in their venture were industry vets Bill Heitman, Jim Munro, Fulton Allen and Steve Puckett. Of the six, however, only Fitzgibbons remains. The plans for Davidson's 295 Fifth Ave. showroom space are undetermined.

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