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Bigger Throws Look For Spring Awakening

Jill Rowen -- Home Textiles Today, January 8, 2014

Northwest Co.’s license with NFLNorthwest Co.’s license with NFL helps generate sales regardless of the weather as fans show the love for their favorite teams.
Suppliers are working hard to make throws a category for all seasons. Admittedly a cold weather staple - and buoyed by a recent report from NPD Research Group that made throws a top ten gift item - the category is playing with sizing and ever softer finishing to keep it top of mind and top of couch all year long.
     "Smart homemakers invest in good quality neutral toned sofas and each season they easily refresh the look of their home with throws and pillows in the latest styles, patterns and colors," said Vicky Grant, creative director, Manual Woodworkers & Weavers (MWW).
     The company is marketing an acrylic indoor/outdoor throw designed to resist mildew and sunlight. MWW is also introducing new soft poly throws for the winter markets.
     "The combination of the yarns we use and the final steps (wash, soften and dry) give this lightweight throw a soft luxurious hand. The throw reverses to a natural ecru color and is easy care machine wash and dry," said Grant.
     "An average consumer owns at least two throws and changes them seasonally. Throws are an inexpensive way to update décor," noted Mei Higgins, vp, design and product development, Berkshire Blanket. "As long as consumers feel the need for a change and we supply trend right throws, we hope to maintain the momentum."
     Berkshire is using textured microfiber yarns in some of its basic core fabrications. "The yarns combined with new finishing techniques create softer fabric and interesting finishes. Though small in volume, we are seeing renewed interest in natural fiber blends: silks, wools and better cotton," she said.
Berkshire BlanketBerkshire Blanket pitches its throws, include bamboo here, as a way to update décor year-around.

     For the Northwest Co., its slew of licensed products, including its NFL partnership, keep interest up long after the holiday season."One of the things that has really helped our NFL product is Fantasy Football," said Stan Miezkowski, vp, sales & marketing. "It keeps football fans engaged beyond the local team game. Now, in addition to having a favorite team, diehard fans have favorite players in all different teams."
     According to Miezkowski, a micro raschel knit is its top seller, but the company is working a silk touch construction for a "super soft" hand .
     Though it is unclear who created the accepted industry standard of a 50-by-60 throw, sizes are increasing across the board. Although Northwest makes a 40-by-50 for the juvenile market, it also offers a larger 60-by-80 size. "All of our sports thows are in the larger size."
     "Our in line basic size is now 50-by-70 but we also sell a 50-by-80 and we see many customers trading up for the larger size," said Rick Lotuff, ceo, American Blanket Co. "The nice thing about the larger size is it allows two people to sit on the couch together and share with a little extra elbow room."
     "The 50-by-60 throw is still the most prevalent, but you do see 50-by-70 as a better offering, which of course, retailers want for the same price," noted Angela Boswell, vp design & product development, Ellery Homestyles. According to Boswell, top sellers for Ellery are
Alpaca throws from PendletonAlpaca throws from Pendleton, which sees the most traction at retail in larger sizes.
still 100% polyester constructions, but with updated finishing techniques that translate to softer hands.
     At Pendleton Woolen Mills, 54-by-72 (not including fringe) is the most popular size. "Large size throws is what we typically sell best," said Bob Christnacht, director, wholesale sales, worldwide. Pendleton has seen about eight years of double-digit sales increases for throws. Worldwide and year-round sales keep the throws selling as the company chases winter in the Southern Hemisphere. One issue: although the cost of wool has stabilized, labor costs are a challenge, noted Christnacht.
      "The most popular size is still 50-by-60 and 50-by-70. This has been pretty consistent. There are some retailers that go up to 60-by-70 for differentiations among basics," said Higgins.
     Size notwithstanding, suppliers hope the revived love affair with throws continues with consumers.
     "The throw blanket is the most versatile item you could have, and we use it in so many locations every season, not just winter. It is the foundation item for a spring picnic, a summer beach day, and the fall football games," said Lotuff.

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