Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Saks: investigation to conclude a little late


Source: HTT Staff

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Saks Incorporated reported that the internal investigation by its Audit Committee into improper collections of vendor markdown allowances (disclosed on March 3) is now expected to be finished in April. It was originally intended to conclude by the end of March.

The allowances investigation of vendor markdown relates to one of Saks Fifth Avenue's six merchandising divisions, the adequacy of an earlier internal investigation in 2002 into the same matter, and accounting and disclosure issues that have come up in the course of the current examination, stated the company.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Housing numbers paint blurry picture

Market Report

Source: By Home Textiles Today

WASHINGTON - With interest rates inching up, higher gas prices settling in and the employment outlook still obscured, the nation's housing market remained unsettled during February, sending out mixed signals for a third straight month.

The highly volatile gauge of expensive new homes advanced 9.4 percent during February, recovering from a slide of 8.6 percent the month before. But the other two key indicators - existing home sales and housing starts — both sputtered, stuck in neutral.

The key gauge of lower-cost existing home sales, often starter homes or second homes, slipped 0.4 percent, to a seasonally adjusted level of 6.8 million units. Housing starts, the most forward-looking barometer, lost some steam during February, edging up just 0.5, weakening after a solid 6.2 percent increase the month before.

Down Comforters

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Market Basket Cheaper in 2005

Marketing Report

Source: By Home Textiles Today 2005(c)

New York - Whether a factor of deflation or a reaction to consumer sensitivity, spring prices on bedding and bath items fell back in this year's Market Basket survey.

Home Textiles Today's fourth annual report found that pricing dropped this year in most of the highest-priced and lowest-priced items in the survey.

In terms of top price point item in each market basket, tickets were reduced sharply at five of the nine stores visited by HTT:

- Sears, down 50 percent;

- Kohl's, down 42 percent;

- Linens 'n Things, down 29 percent;

- JCPenney, down 17 percent;

- Marshall's, down 14 percent.

The top price point Market Basket item remained the same at Bed Bath & Beyond ($249.99), Target ($149.99) and Kmart ($114.99).

Only Wal-Mart, famed as America's low-price leader, bumped the top line. The most expensive item in the Wal-Mart basket - a queen bed-in-a-bag - rose from $84.75 in last year's survey to $99.74 this year, a hike of nearly 18 percent.

At the same time - and emblematic of Wal-Mart's strategy of pushing price points at both ends of the spectrum - its lowest-priced queen bed-in-a-bag dropped from $44.96 in the 2004 survey to $28.84, a 36 percent cut. Also indicative of the general trend, last year's item was manufactured in the United States by Springs Industries. This year's low-price bed-in-a-bag was sourced from Pakistan by Wal-Mart.

Nonetheless, the U.S.-manufactured goods in Wal-Mart's basket increased substantially. The ratio stood at just 2 percent last year - the lowest in the 2004 survey - and grew to 25 percent this year.

The ratio of U.S. made goods in the basket also rose at Kmart, from 3 percent to a whopping 53 percent - the largest concentration of domestic goods in this year's survey. At all other retailers, the percent of domestically manufactured goods declined.

For the annual Market Basket reports, HTT assembles a list of basic bed and bath items, then visits one store from each of 9 of the top 10 home textiles retailers to find the lowest priced item and the highest priced item for each product on the shopping list. The No. 10 retailer on HTT's Top 50 Retailers ranking - Pottery Barn - was not included in the survey because its in-store assortment of bedding and bath products is too slight to make valid comparisons.

As in previous years, the market baskets contain only items marked at everyday prices. Sale and clearance goods are not added to the cart in order to establish a base line for EDLP.

HTT's editors were unable to complete their shopping lists at four stores. Neither the JCPenney nor the Target store offered any non-sale bath sheets on the day they were visited. Wal-Mart had no tissue boxes, and Marshall's was lacking both the queen-sized bed-in-bag and the queen dust ruffle on the list.

While the market baskets are not representative of each chain's "average market basket," they do represent what a customer who shopped these stores in these markets - during the period between March 7 and March 14 - would have found if she were looking for either the least expensive goods or the presumed top-of-the-line products.

This year's survey found prices tumbling on the low-end as well. The retail on the lowest-priced item in the baskets dropped dramatically at the majority of stores visited:

- Sears, down 75 percent;

- Kohl's, down 60 percent;

- Linens 'n Things, down 57 percent;

- Marshall's, down 50 percent;

- Bed Bath & Beyond, down 33 percent.

Last year, the lowest-priced item in each of their baskets was produced in the United States - primarily by WestPoint Stevens - with one exception. This year, the retailers' lowest priced items were produced abroad - again, with one exception.

Only Wal-Mart and JCPenney held level on their lowest-priced market basket items, at 78 cents and $3.99, respectively. Kmart raised the price on its least expensive market basket item by a penny.

Target was the lone retailer in the survey to hike the ticket in its lowest-priced, non-sale wash cloth: up 79 percent from 88 cents in 2004 to $1.58 this year.

Stein Mart opening new stores this year

Bedding Retail News

Source: By Home Textiles Today

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Stein Mart announced plans to open 15 new stores in 2005, including a relocation, during its fourth-quarter conference call yesterday.

The retailer will also shut eight locations, primarily in April. The remainder will close in early fall.

New markets for this year's openings include Ocean, N.J., in May along with openings in the Southeast where the company is known but doesn't yet have locations. Four store openings will take place this spring: two in Florida, one in South Carolina and one in New Jersey. The rest of the store openings will take place in the third and fourth quarters.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Neiman Marcus Group looking for buyer

Source: By Home Textile Today

DALLAS - The Neiman Marcus Group, Inc. is exploring strategic alternatives, including the possible sale of the company, it stated.

The company has retained Goldman Sachs & Co. as its financial advisor.

Neiman's is the first department store company to publicly announce a potential sale in the wake of the Federated/May Co. merger news. Analysts have speculated the merger of the country's two largest department store chains could trigger a wave of consolidation among smaller department store companies.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Martha merchandise holds up

Martha Stewart Bedding

Source: By Home Textile Today

NEW YORK - Merchandising was the lone division at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia to post a sales increase during the fourth quarter, the company reported today.

Revenues were up 5.5 percent to $23.7 million - due in part to an increase in Kmart's minimum royalty payments and $1.6 million in royalties related to the dissolution of the Martha Stewart Signature flooring program. A new 5-star bedding program will roll out at Kmart for spring, and the brand will launch RTA furniture in June, according to Susan Lyne, president and CEO.

On the whole, the $7.3 million fourth quarter loss was less than the company had expected. Total sales were down 15 percent, to $60.2 million.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Trump to J.R. United: You're hired

Trump Bedding

Source: By Home Textiles Today

MIAMI -- Bedding and bath coordinates manufacturer J. R. United is expanding its offerings of men's loungewear, sleepwear and underwear through a newly-signed, exclusive licensing partnership with The Trump Organization.

Under the Donald J. Trump Signature Collection brand, J. R. United will manufacture and distribute men's sleepwear, loungewear, boxers, underwear and robes -- the latter to be positioned as an extension of retailers' bath towel department among other store areas, said Salo Grosfeld, J. R. United's president.

Targeting better department stores, the collection will be ready for fall delivery.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Down Lite sets up China office, opens first showroom

Down Bedding

Source: By By Staff via Home Textiles Today

MASON, Ohio -- Down Lite has opened a small full-time office in Nanjing, China, for sourcing, product development and quality control issues.

At the moment, the office has one full-time staffer. However, the plan is to bring on two quality assurance employees by year's end.

In addition, the company will open its first permanent showroom at 295 Fifth Ave. by the April New York Home Textiles Market.

The company is renovating Glenoit's former 3,000-square-foot space on the ninth floor, #912, which it will use to showcase its product lines throughout the year as opposed to only showing at the Marriott Marquis during markets.

"We're really excited across the board about this," said Stefan Hunter, Down Lite's marketing manager. "It got to the point that our customers were asking for a showroom. As we've increased our product lines from utility to fashion bedding, throws and blankets, we weren't able to bring all new items to show at market or during retailer visits. This space gives us the presence to have one-on-one meetings with our customers and expand our product development cycle to more of a year-round initiative," he added.

Down Bedding

Friday, March 04, 2005

Despite Deflation, Bedding Sales Gained Smartly in '04

Bedding Industry News

Source: By Home Textile Today (c)2005

New York -

In 2004, the bedding category saw the continuation of price deflation, a trading up of specifications at prior price points and more direct sourcing from Asia.

Although leading bedding suppliers have struggled to grow - or even maintain - revenue levels in the face of deflation and stepped up retail-direct sourcing, the top 10 retailers have mostly posted strong growth, helping push total bedding sales ahead 12 percent to $8.3 billion.

Economic conditions remained difficult in the category last year, primarily in comforters, sheets and throws, where prices decreased and Asian importers eroded more and more business from domestic manufacturers. However, sales of better goods accelerated in 2004 as part of the overall trend toward luxury and "hotel" positioning.

In sheets, the industry faced higher cotton prices and a potential shortfall in sheet quota. Although retailers took some price increases, the category remained under pressure from retailer-direct programs, which are expected to grow again in 2005 now that quotas have been eliminated.

Keith Sorgeloos, president of Home Source International, noted, "One of the things that will become more crucial going forward is determining how to break the monotony and confusion going on about thread counts. The American consumer is still tied to thread count, but what you do to the sheet in terms of performance is what can set it apart."

The quilt category flattened out in 2004. Although many retailers placed an emphasis on higher-end products and contemporary looks, the commoditization on the volume side of the business held price points low.

In down comforters, higher prices and the shortage of down created a reduction in supply due to the avian flu earlier in the year and increased costs of raw materials and finished goods. Some retailers cut back on down products during the year as a result. Interest in solid color programs also started to plateau, which previously had been a means of drawing more fashion-oriented customers to the category.

"Down and feather cost increases in 2004, driven by increased worldwide demand, were not a temporary event. The finished-product suppliers bore the burden in 2004, but that is not sustainable," described Eric Moen, president of Pacific Coast Feather Company.

Meanwhile the sleep pillow and mattress pad categories were focused on providing functional, performance-based benefits. The value of thread counts was less impactful than it has been in the past as consumers lost clarity on the issue. The trend is moving away from selling product features and toward providing tangible benefits since consumers want more quality. There were also some brand distribution issues that occurred in mattress pads, with key brands migrating to lower-tier distribution channels.

Scott Walters, director of product development at Louisville Bedding, added that in the basic bedding category, there has been a continued trend toward performance-based, benefit-driven products. "Consumers are seemingly gravitating to products that actually do something for them," said Walters.

He added that there also seems to be a continued trend toward down-alternative products, whether they are comforters, fiber beds or cluster pillows. "And who can forget the spandex knit polystyrene bead filled pillow. First introduced by Mogu, it seemed that every retailer had a version this past holiday season," Walters described.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Luxury Essentials: Breakdown of a Luxury Bedding Set - Comforter

Luxury Bedding

Source: By LuxurySleep (c)2005

In continuation of this series we will be discussing properties that makeup luxury comforters. The comforter or "duvet" (Canadian or European countries) is the piece of your bedding that is used to cover you while you sleep. It contains natural duck or goose down or various other "down-like" fillings. We will assume we are dealing with down comforters today. Today, "alternative-down" products manufactures usually put approximant specs too help you compare the product to it's naturally filled counterparts. Down is very light but has some of the best warmth properties in the world. When looking for a comforter there are a few terms you need too pay attention too.

Fill Power: The ability of down to regain its shape when pressure is released. The higher the fill power number, the greater the insulating value of the down. You want too look for at least 525-600 fill power. Remember that the higher you go the warmer and usually more expensive the comforter gets. If you get anything over 700 fill power will be very warm and is recommended for colder climates.

Thread Count: This number is talking about the shell that the down is contained in and is what either touches your skin or is put into a duvet cover. Thread Count is measured by adding the number of warp ends per inch and filling picks per inch in the woven fabric. The higher the number, the denser the yarns are packed together, but unfortunately thread count has come to be the major determinant of quality in the US customer's eyes. The quality of the cotton and the finishing process after weaving can often be more important to the soft hand and durability of a fabric than a high thread count.

Construction: There are 3 major types:

Baffle Box: Baffle-box is the recommended type of comforter construction because it is good about keeping the down from shifting and creating "cold spots".
Sewn Thru: This is a process instead of create chambers where the down can shift a little; you sew though the comforter too keep the down in place. It is standard on most mid-range priced comforters.
Open Construction: For most entry level comforters or people who prefer to have the down be able too move freely this is the comforter construction you

Weight: This pertains too the amount of Duck or Goose Down placed inside the comforter. This value is usually displayed in ounces. It will range anywhere from 18-60+oz. depending on the comforter. 18-30oz. is what I call a light or spring/summer weight comforter. 30-45oz. is standard weight for temperate climate winters and temperatures. 45-60+oz. are for people who really like a warm sleep or live in extremely cold climates all the way too sub-arctic temperatures.

Extra Features: After you have covered your basics then you can start looking for features that make this comforter more unique for your style. There are different things like: Fabric (Silk, Egyptian Cotton, Embroidery, Over-Sized, etc...) The higher in price point you go, the more of the features are included. This concluded this portion of the article. Thank you for joining us and come back soon for the next piece.

Next Article: Featherbeds or Feather Beds

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

WestPoint Stevens Captures Charisma License for Entry Into Ultimate Luxury Bed and Bath

Bedding Industry

Source: Press Release

WEST POINT, Ga., Dec. 8 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- WestPoint Stevens Inc. (OTC Bulletin Board: WSPT - News; announced today that the Company has gained what is perhaps the ultimate luxury brand for bed and bath in a licensing agreement to market the famed Charisma® line. Under WestPoint Stevens, Charisma's placement will be marked by exclusivity, with limited distribution to select department stores and upscale catalogs.

"Over time, Charisma has become the absolute standard of luxury for bed and bath products in the home furnishings industry, with well-established brand recognition by consumers. Few brands have had the luxury-market impact that Charisma has shown," said President - Bed and Bath Robert B. (Bob) Dale. "It's a brand so key that we're launching an entire new division -- Charisma Home -- to optimize the opportunities it offers.

"In taking Charisma forward, we will stay true to the brand's unique concept of properties while enhancing its position as the aspirational brand for discriminating consumers whose lifestyle embraces real luxury," Mr. Dale added.

Basic Bedding Division President Arthur (Art) Birkins sees Charisma as a significant boost to the luxury level of that business. "Over the past few years, there's been a surge in higher-end products in basic bedding. There's a solid trend toward building a better bed that starts with pads and pillows, and consumers look for higher thread counts and upscale fabrics and constructions. Charisma offers a great opportunity to meet these demands."

At WestPoint Stevens, Charisma Home will encompass fashion bedding and decorative pillows, bath and bath accessories and a range of basic bedding that includes blankets, throws and down and down-alternative products. The anticipated Charisma shipping date is fourth quarter 2005.

"As we continue to see the whole bedding and bath market trading up in constructions and design, Charisma is ideal to be positioned as a 'best in class' line, with super-premium product and price points," said Judi Alexander, who will head up the new division as Vice President - Charisma Home."

Ms. Alexander has been with the Company for eight years, most recently as Vice President - Marketing for the Basic Bedding Division. "She brings impressive marketing and product development experience to lead the Charisma Home Division, with a solid background in the luxury market from her work with utility products in our Ralph Lauren Home® license, another valuable luxury line," noted Mr. Dale. "Of special value to Charisma Home is her expertise in market research and targeting specific consumers, such as those who seek the luxury of Charisma.

Before joining WestPoint Stevens, she was part of the original launch team for the introduction of Calvin Klein Home in 1995.

Jeff Cohen, Co-Chairman of Earthbound LLC, which chose WestPoint Stevens to market Charisma, emphasized that WestPoint's reputation for quality product and established success with other well-known licenses were key factors in leading Earthbound to place the prestigious Charisma license with the home fashions giant. "WestPoint's own flagship Martex® brand is an institution in this business -- a quality product carefully built and marketed over many years -- and the Company's success with licenses such as Ralph Lauren Home and Disney Home® shows its expertise in recognizing and maximizing brand potential. We are confident that WestPoint Stevens will create a whole new level of consumer demand for Charisma." The Charisma trademark is owned by Official Pillowtex LLC.

WestPoint Stevens Inc. is the nation's premier home fashions consumer products company, with a wide range of bed linens, towels, blankets, comforters and accessories marketed under the well-known brand names GRAND PATRICIAN, PATRICIAN, MARTEX, ATELIER MARTEX, BABY MARTEX, UTICA, STEVENS, LADY PEPPERELL, SEDUCTION, VELLUX and CHATHAM -- all registered trademarks owned by WestPoint Stevens Inc. and its subsidiaries -- and under licensed brands including RALPH LAUREN HOME, DISNEY HOME and GLYNDA TURLEY.

Luxury Bedding

WestPoint Stevens to close Triad factory, cut 560 local jobs

Bedding Industry

Source: Business Journal - Triad Area

WestPoint Stevens announced a major restructuring Monday that would affect nearly 2,500 employees and shut down several plants, including the company's Alamance County factory and distribution center.

The company, based in West Point, Ga., said it would be consolidating its bed and bath products manufacturing and shifting "a significant amount" to overseas factories due to the end of international textile trade quotas.

"We must be flexible in maintaining the most profitable balance between our domestic manufacturing and goods source from overseas," President and CEO M.L. "Chip" Fontenot said in a prepared statement released late Monday afternoon. "This becomes more critical with quotas removed."

WestPoint Stevens (OTCBB: WSPTQ) said it would close its Alamance Plant and Distribution Center in Burlington, its Clemson, S.C., fabricating and greige plants and distribution center, its Middleton, Ind., plant and its Drakes Branch, Va., plant. The company also said it would reduce the work force at its Clemson finishing plant by more than 50 percent.

In all, about 2,465 employees will be affected. Its facilities in Burlington employ 560 people, the company said.

The affected plants will begin to prepare for shutdown this month, with the facilities closing in late March or early April. The layoffs are the first textile job losses in the Triad since international quotas on textiles and apparel trade ended Jan. 1.

Many U.S. textile companies predicted that the end of the decades-old quota system would lead to a new round of layoffs for the textile industry. The industry lobbied, to date mostly unsuccessfully, for the government to impose new, temporary quotas on Chinese-made goods. The government has not ruled on most of those quota requests yet. New quotas are generally opposed by the apparel industry.