Wednesday, September 28, 2005

PPR's (Pinault-Printemps-Redoute) luxury strategy pays off

PPR's decision to focus on the luxury-goods market is finally paying off: Demand for top fashions and accessories in Gucci Group, which it owns, helped PPR's first-half earnings even as a deteriorating retail environment sapped strength from its other units, the company said Thursday.

Seventeen months after its star designer, Tom Ford, and chief executive, Domenico De Sole, left the company, Gucci Group delivered a 76 percent gain in operating profit to 107.4 million, or $133 million, helping to lift PPR's net income 13 percent to 169.6 million from a year earlier. Earnings at Gucci Group's retail division fell 4.2 percent to 269 million, PPR said.

Click Here for the Full Article

Monday, September 26, 2005

SLEEP - Luxury or Necessity?

TO SOME PEOPLE, sleep is a waste of time. Preferring a very busy daily schedule of business and social engagements, they only surrender to sleep when extremely tired. In contrast, others, enduring night after night of tossing and turning until the early hours of the morning, would give anything for a good night's sleep.

Why do some find it so hard to sleep, while others are desperate to stay awake? Should we view sleep as a luxury or a necessity? To answer these questions, we need to understand what is going on while we are asleep.
The Mysteries of Falling Asleep

Exactly what makes a person lose consciousness and fall asleep remains a mystery. Researchers, however, have established that sleep is a complex process regulated by the brain and that it obeys a 24-hour biological clock.

As we get older, our sleeping habits change. A newborn sleeps for frequent short periods that total about 18 hours a day. According to sleep specialists, although some adults appear to need only three hours of sleep a day, others need up to ten hours.

Click Here for Full Article

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Revman launches Echo Home Luxury Collection

NEW YORK - Revman International will debut a new luxury bedding collection for Echo Home at the upcoming New York Home Textiles Market.

The new collection features six ensembles, 400-count sateen sheeting and a variety of upscale fabrics in accessories including linen/cotton, herringbone yarn dyes, dupioni, charmeuse, metallic-accent jacquards, fine-weave sateen, and faux suede with piecing, detailed quilting, beading and embroidered touches to add depth and textural interest.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Katrina Crushing Business

New York - In the days since Hurricane Katrina tore through South Florida and portions of the Gulf Coast states, the home textiles industry has worked to cope with its effects on both people and business.

Costa Mesa, Calif.-based Anna's Linens, which had to close 12 units in New Orleans, Biloxi, Miss. and Mobile, Ala., still had not accounted for all of its 100 associates in the region at press time.

"We are still waiting to hear about them, and that's the most important thing to us right now," said Alan Gladstone, president, CEO and chairman.

In the meantime,mounting crises are taking a toll on the total industry and creating some major headaches and concerns.

The market is feeling the brunt of a surge in oil prices, caused by Katrina's impact on refineries in Louisiana. Harmful weather and power outages have forced many retailers, like Anna's, Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Fred's, to shut down dozens of regional units. Flooded and obstructed roadways combined with high gas prices are causing trucking delays, leaving truckloads of goods on hold or stuck between destinations. And pricing pressures are compounding the pain for the industry.

Taking a firm position on pricing is Dalton, Ga.-based Shaw Living, a major producer and supplier of synthetic area, accent and bath rugs.

"The rising cost of oil continues to negatively impact operating margins," said Jeff Meadows, division vice president. "We have seen the price double over the past five quarters. We must pass these costs along to our customers, as they have become too much to absorb."

Gladstone said Anna's Linens does not expect to see "any inflation in this industry. We are keeping our prices the same." But he warned should gas prices soon hit $4 per gallon at the pump, "forget Anna's and the home textiles industry. The whole country will have a major problem on its hands."

Sympathetic to both sides is Kea Capel Meachum, business and brand manager for High Point, N.C.-based Bacova Guild and sister company, Gulistan Carpets Inc.

"We got many container loads of goods coming now, including polypropylene and nylon area rugs, and we're in no position to pass along a cost increase to retailers, and retailers are in no position to accept one," she said.

Many are still apprehensive about addressing the topic of product price increases.

"I simply just don't know what will happen or what we'll do," explained Wade Maples, president and owner of Scottsboro, Ala.-based Maples Industries. About 80 percent of the company's offerings comprise synthetic area, accent and bath rugs. "The sudden surge in oil prices has definitely come as a surprise, and all we can do right now is deal with it as it unfolds."

Similarly, Sugar Valley, Ga.-based Mohawk Home, also predominantly synthetic in its offerings, said it is still studying what to do about pricing. "We continue to evaluate the ever-increasing cost pressures from raw materials as well as the transportation costs throughout the entire supply chain," said Jim Quist, vice president, sales.

Oil-based product price increases are still "manageable" for Carson, Calif.-based Brentwood Originals, a supplier of decorative pillows. Loren Sweet, president, said all of its pillows contain polyester filling, "which is going up (in price) continuously." He said that if Brentwood is forced to raise its own prices as a result, "it will depend on demand. But ultimately, it will have to happen."

Barry Leonard, president and CEO of Glenoit Universal, said oil-based products - such as shower curtains - make up a major part of his business.

"We are still debating how to handle (price increases)," he said. He added that oil prices - which rose by 65 percent prior to Katrina - have already "significantly impacted" his business.

Glenoit, based in Tarboro, N.C., is just one of many home textiles companies with facilities in the South that are bracing for tougher times ahead.

Gov. Mike Easley of North Carolina last Thursday issued a statement urging people of his state to conserve gasoline. Easley said 90 percent of North Carolina's gas supply came from two major pipelines that have been shut down by Katrina. "We do not know the extent of the problem, but we do know that there will be a significant loss of gasoline in the Southeast," he said.

Easley described the problem as not only North Carolina's but also one for the region and the nation. He asked that the entire region, which is home to several companies like Springs Industries, WestPoint Stevens, Croscill Home and Capel Inc., take every measure to conserve energy.

Many store closings - both short - and long-term - are already heavily impacting retail. Wal-Mart shut down more than 80 units and at least one distribution center in the region due to power outages and flooding. It sent e-mails to vendors asking them to withhold shipments to these stores until further notice.

Home Depot also closed several units but announced last Wednesday that is would begin opening stores on the periphery in the coming weeks and months and would also relocate thousands of its workers to the Gulf Coast States to provide additional support to affected stores and communities.

Fred's, too, said more than 180 units in the region were affected and about 90 stores were shut down as of last Tuesday evening.

Gladstone said when Katrina struck South Florida, Anna's was forced to close 12 units for three consecutive days and postpone the grand opening of a new unit in Miami's Hialeah Gardens neighborhood until Sept. 15. His outlook for stores in the Gulf Coast is bleak, since eight of 12 closed stores will be unable to reopen until sometime next year.

"The damage was so bad that it's beyond words," Gladstone explained. The other four stores are expected to be back in operation in the coming week or so, he said.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Barry Sternlicht's Bedding Revolution Continues

Sheraton Hotel Owners Investing More Than $75 Million in New Beds

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. - Sept. 23, 2003 -- Sleeping on the job is usually a no-no, but executives at Sheraton Hotels & Resorts have slumbered on hundreds of mattresses, pillows and bed linens to develop the brand's newest signature: the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed(sm). The hotel giant and its owners and franchisees are spending more than $75 million to put 110,000 new beds in 200 hotels in North America.

The Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed

Some may say that Barry Sternlicht is obsessed with helping people get a good night's sleep. The Chairman and CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE:HOT), Sheraton's parent, has spent the last five years upgrading the beds in his hotel rooms. In 1998 when he launched W Hotels he modeled the brand's bed after his own bed at home. In 1999, Sternlicht started a bedding revolution when he threw out all the old beds at Westin Hotels and introduced the now iconic Westin Heavenly Bed(R). Now he's tackled Starwood's most global and oldest brand, Sheraton, and developed a luxurious multi-layered custom designed bed that features an 11.5 inch thick, high coil count Sealy Posturepedic(R) Plush Top mattress, down and allergy sensitive pillows and crisp cotton sheets. In a nod to Sheraton's classic aesthetic, the beds feature a selection of duvet patterns inspired by timeless tattersall checks, hound's-tooth and pinstripe patterns in rich color tones.

"I have always been somewhat astounded by how little hotel companies invest in their beds considering that our primary product is a good night's sleep," said Sternlicht. "When we launched the Heavenly Bed in 1999, other hotel executives thought we were crazy. Four years later Westin's guest satisfaction scores, market share and global growth are up significantly, and we're selling our Heavenly Beds everyday to our guests. I am just thrilled to introduce a great new bed to our classic brand and improving the sleeping experience of more travelers."

By the end of this year, more than 50,000 new beds will be installed in hotels throughout North America - accounting for 70% of Sheraton's total room inventory here. By the end 2004, all Sheraton hotels will feature the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed, totaling more than 70,000 rooms in 200 hotels. New beds will also be installed in London and Latin America.

The Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed is the latest in a series of enhancements designed to elevate the brand to the top of the upscale hotel segment. Since 1998, more than more than $1 billion has been invested in upgrading the Sheraton brand, primarily in renovations. Sheraton's design team, recruited from Ralph Lauren, Holly Hunt, and Williams-Sonoma has revamped Sheraton's room design and created a portfolio of five lifestyle guestroom designs that are rolling out around the country.

"During my 30-year career at Sheraton I have never seen the brand in such excellent shape with so much momentum," says Bob Cotter, Starwood's Chief Operating Officer. "Just last year we introduced The Sheraton Service Promise, and this year Sheraton rolled out a new ad campaign, a great new room design and tougher brand standards throughout the United States. And now with the roll-out of thousands of Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Beds, there has never been a better time to spend the night with Sheraton and see for yourself."

The Sheraton Service Promise, promises if you're not satisfied, just tell us and we'll take care of it. Here is how the Sheraton Service Promise works: if a guest should happen to have a problem during their stay, they need only tell a hotel associate and they'll immediately take steps to correct the problem. Plus, the guest will automatically receive compensation for their problem - an extra step to ensure the guest is satisfied. Since the introduction of The Sheraton Service Promise, guest satisfaction scores have reached the highest in the brand's history, guest complaints have declined and fewer problems are being reported.

Luxury Hotel Pillows

"We made a promise to our guests to build upon our commitment to service and provide comfort and style with our new room design," says Norman MacLeod, Executive Vice President for Sheraton Hotels & Resorts. "The Sheraton Sweet Sleeper is just yet another reason for travelers to take a new look at the new Sheraton."

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE: HOT) is one of the leading hotel and leisure companies in the world with more than 740 properties in more than 80 countries and 105,000 employees at its owned and managed properties.