Thursday, May 05, 2005

Big Names Returning to Retail

Retail Comeback

Source: By HTT

New York - The Cannon, Charisma and Royal Velvet brands are in various stages of evolution as the former pair plan their reintroduction at retail and the later looks to expand its distribution following a bumpy spring launch.

Cannon - once the largest home textiles brand by volume in the industry - is honing in on decisions about final construction in sheets and towels, and has already developed design boards for top-of-bed in the office of Li & Fung, the firm that holds the licenses for both Cannon and Pillowtex.

The line will be ready to debut at retail in the United States and Europe in February 2006, said Jack Toolan, Li & Fung's senior vice president, general manager for Cannon.

"In our view, this is a very big brand," he said. "It's known for bed and bath, but we think Cannon should populate every part of the home business."

In top-of-bed, Cannon is developing product to suit five lifestyles Li & Fung sees as compatible with the brand's history: cottage, traditional, tudor, bungalow and townhouse.

In bath, Cannon will bring out a core basic towel in 12 colors priced at $4.99, with a step-up towel in 10 colors at $6.99. In sheets, the core solid will be a 220 blend, with an all-cotton 250 step-up construction. The core sheet will retail somewhere between $32.99 and $37.99 on a queen set and the better sheet will retail for about $10 more.

Cannon is also well into the development of a consumer marketing campaign under the tagline "Cannon, Take Comfort" that seeks to evoke traditional values such as family. Li & Fung's consumer research found that Cannon still has the highest name recognition in bed and bath among consumers, and ironically, many consumers in the survey claimed to have purchased Cannon products during the past two years.

Charisma, which is being produced under license by WestPoint Stevens, will be ready to ship later in the year to high-end specialty stores and catalogs. WestPoint has developed a broad horizontal program across fashion bedding, bath and utility bedding.

"We're positioning it as a luxury brand - not at the very top, but above the moderate level for luxury," said Judi Alexander, WestPoint's vice president for Charisma Home.

Duvet covers are oversized at 100-by-100 inches. Fitted sheets feature a 19-inch pocket and all-around elastic. Coverlets are detailed with hand-applied embroidery. Blankets include a Lyocell and cotton construction, a mercerized Egyptian cotton and a cashmere and mercerized merino wool blend.

The core Egyptian cotton sheet comes in nine colors. Alexander would not discuss thread-count or finishing details beyond saying the sheet was made of compact yarn and that the weaving technique is proprietary.

Meanwhile, Royal Velvet is working to live up to expectations after a disappointing February launch in bath. The brand, which is produced under license by Li & Fung, will introduce an improved $9.99 core towel with its July shipment. The mercerized 30-by-56-inch towel is constructed of combed Supima loops and compact yarn.

"We think we've got a Cadillac product here," said Lou Casali, Li & Fung's senior vice president and general manager of Royal Velvet.

As it looks to roll out the bedding program it introduced during the New York Mini-Market in February, Royal Velvet will launch a consumer marketing campaign this fall under the tag line: "Royal Velvet, Fashion for the Bed and Bath."

The campaign features young women wearing pieces of the line as apparel along with the slogan: "If you could wear it, you would." The idea, Casali said, is to attract a younger customer to the brand.

"The traditional Royal Velvet customer is a little bit older, and we want to keep her, but we're also appealing to a new customer," he said. "We're trying to juice this business back up again."

The national campaign will target women 25 to 54 years old, skewing younger, with a household income of $50,000 and up. In addition to magazines, the marketing strategy will include television, product placement, online ads, in-store promotions, events and database marketing.