Trend Report - February 2013

Brand Power
By Wanda Jankowski

Brand: Vera Wang Revman International presents the Modern Ikat Collection from its Vera Wang line. It pairs abstract ikat designs with white 400-thread-count cotton sheeting and pillowcases finished with a thick solid-color border. Textured solid-color decorative pillows and lightweight coverlet add a masculine edge, which is a Vera Wang trademark.
Brand: Avanti The Gilded Birds Collection is offered by Avanti Linens under its own brand name.
Brand: Robin Wilson Home Phiten is the newest sheet set from the Robin Wilson Home brand.
Brand: For Your Home by Vicki Payne The Norwood bedding ensemble is from the For Your Home by Vicki Payne Collection produced by Royale Linens.
Brand: HGTV HOME P/K Lifestyles, a division of P/Kaufmann, and HGTV HOME have launched a new line of HGTV HOME decorative fabric collections with looks inspired by the HGTV HOME lifestyles. The initial collections are Community, featuring inspirations from native and folk traditions that juxtapose old and new world design, and Graphic Control, which offers simplistic, organic designs with stripes, color blocking and geometric prints. Shown is the Looseleaf design in turquoise.
Brand: Trina Turk A new design in the color-rich Trina Turk Residential Collection from PHI.
Brand: Nourison The Eclipse Collection, offered under Nourison’s own brand name, offers a fresh take on classic patterns, such as diamonds (shown), scrolling vines (shown), horizontal stripes and damask designs. Made in Turkey and available in five sizes, the 100 percent polypropylene rugs are rendered in a shimmering, subtly gradated metallic color palette.
Brand: Protect-A-Bed The Protect-A-Bed Luxury Mattress Protector, which marries Tencel with Protect-A-Bed’s Miracle Membrane®, is offered in four sizes. It wicks moisture away from the surface of the mattress, helps the sleeper maintain an even core body temperature through its thermo-regulating properties, and provides a barrier to dust mites, liquids and other irritants.

Suppliers reveal why brands are so popular today, the pluses and pitfalls of online exposure, and key characteristics that lead to brand success

When Shakespeare had his tragic heroine Juliet speak the now famous lines, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” he wasn’t thinking about branded home textiles. But today, brand names seem to be making a big difference in what consumers purchase, prompting this in-depth look at why brands, from in-house and licensed lines to private labels, are popular, the effects of the internet on brand marketing and what determines if a brand is successful or falls flat.

Brand Demand

Leading suppliers agree that demand for branded products over non-branded counterparts remains strong, whether economic times are good or not.

“Brands have always been in demand and always will be,” states Daniel Bonini, president, P/K Lifestyles. “Brands offer a value proposition that is based on the perception of what the brand represents in design aesthetics and positioning.”

Richard Roman, president and ceo, Revman International, cautions, “However, in recessionary times it becomes more important that the brand provide a tangible value in addition to a compelling trend/lifestyle look.”

“Brands always go back to product that can stand on its own,” says Julie Rosenblum, executive director of licensing, Nourison. “Consumers are brand conscious now more than ever. They look at color, design and construction—perceived value.”

“For those consumers who have disposable income and value the importance of the product they will probably lean to acquiring a branded product for reasons of quality, visibility, fashion and/or durability,” notes Frank Snow, vice-president merchandising, Royale Linens, Inc.

Carol Antone, vice-president of creative, PHI, notes the success of the company’s licensed Trina Turk Collection. “In the case of Trina Turk, there was nothing in the market that looked anything like it. It was fresh, fun and totally unique. It really was an instant success, even though we launched it in the worst days of the recession,” she says.

The Role Of The Internet

Is brand building easier now that far-reaching, cost-effective online marketing techniques have become commonplace?

“Brands are actually easier to sell via the internet, as a branded product gives the online shopper the confidence that they will receive a quality product,” says Roman. “Unbranded products, or products with lesser-known brand names, have a bigger hurdle selling online because the consumer is taking more of a chance when purchasing without being able to see and feel the product.”

The internet has opened up new opportunities to market brands, but effectiveness in that arena centers on getting the right message to the appropriate audience.

“The wide use of social media, reality shows and internet has made it easier to ‘brand’ oneself than in the past, but that does not mean that these are real brands with staying power,” says Robin Wilson, ceo, Robin Wilson Home. “A true brand has to have a distinct message and purpose. Selling a brand remains a challenge and with so many options in the market today, it is harder for consumers to find authenticity. It is my belief that due to the inundation of brands, there will be fewer that will survive over time because consumers will demand quality, and that will drive brand survival.”

“Social media brings more opportunities to connect and interact with consumers, but it’s a very cluttered space—millions of brands have company fan pages on Facebook alone,” notes James Bell, ceo, Protect-A-Bed.

“Social media encourages brand ambassadors. People want to spend their money wisely: they want to know products work before they buy,” Bell continues. “Social media is a great place for reviews and testimonials and to find out what products their friends trust.

“The key is to reach consumers where they are most receptive. Determining how your target market likes to receive their information will help push relevant info to them within that space,” Bell explains.

The abundance of brands offered today makes it more difficult for any single brand to break out of the pack.
“Creating a brand is easy, establishing it as a recognized brand is difficult,” remarks Snow. “The same is true for licensed product. ‘Does the license truly have a following that will translate into sales?’ is the question each merchandise manager is asking himself.

“Establishing the brand or license requires a desirable product and plenty of time, money and effort to create a space for it in the marketplace,” Snow concludes.

“At P/K Lifestyles, we focus on brands, such as Waverly and Williamsburg, that have integrity and longevity, which make it easier to create a point of difference against other brands,” says Bonini.

“Every license that we sign at Revman has a distinct style and lifestyle point of view, which remains as the guiding point of reference for each new season’s collection,” explains Diane Piemonte, vice-president creative, Revman International. “Whatever the key style and color trends are in any given season, the individual designer brands will respond and interpret them in ways that uniquely reflect their personal visual vocabulary. Even if more than one brand responds to the same trend, the resulting products will be very different.”

At Nourison, which offers products under its own brand name as well as licensed collections, design distinctions are key. “Each brand has to bring a different perspective that fills a void,” says Rosenblum.

Jeff Kaufman, president and coo, Avanti Linens, observes that changes in the retail landscape have affected how many brands can be showcased or supported at a given time. “The Avanti brand has a 40+ year history behind it, so if someone wants to be in the decorative towel business, they know Avanti is the leader and go-to source for the category. Licensed brands are always a challenge,” says Kaufman. “The available floor space and dollars for non-core brands are limited and there are very few brands that a retailer is willing to make a big bet on. So it starts with a small test and has to be built up from there.

“The change from brands being found in multiple retailers to being exclusive/captive and being available only at one retailer have changed the way the brands go to market,” he explains. “National brands are still an important part of almost every retailer’s assortment, but private label/store brands have become much more important. The stores themselves are brands and the customer accepts the brands within the store, whether national or private label.”

What Makes A Brand Successful?

For Bell, there are three keys to making a brand successful. The first is history and credibility, qualities Protect-A-Bed speaks to with its more than 30 years of experience in bedding protection. The second is customer satisfaction—not compromising on quality and service.

“Finally, leading brands have an ability to stay relevant and current,” says Bell. “Leading brands maintain their relevance to a targeted set of customers, and clearly illustrate how they are different from the competition.”
“The success of a brand has to do with it being unique compared to what's already in the market,” says PHI’s Antone. “Also it has to stay fresh. You have to continually show new looks, but, of course, you have to stay true to the brand.”

“The brands that try to be all things to all people are the ones that fail,” says Roman.

“Common pitfalls among brands that do not survive are a positioning mistake (high-to-low), ignoring market trends, or diminished quality to get to a certain retail price,” adds Wilson.

“The consumer customer needs to relate to the products within the brand,” Rosenblum concludes. “They need to understand the brand.”

For today’s retailers, choosing brands that will sell begins with that most basic of tenets: know and understand your customers and their lifestyles.

Resources

• Avanti Linens, 800-360-0836, avantilinens.com
• Nourison, 800-223-1110, nourison.com
• PHI, 800-872-6888, pkhc.com
• P/K Lifestyles, 212-292-2388
• Protect-A-Bed, 866-297-8836, protectabed.com
• Revman International, Inc., 212-278-0300, revman.com
• Robin Wilson Home, 212-863-9197, robinwilsonhome.com
• Royale Linens, Inc., 201-997-3700, royalelinens.com


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