Temp - July 2012

Deciding What Matters
By Wanda Jankowski

Vanity Jewels
Taymor introduces the Crystal Mirror Collection made with clean-lined, beveled-edge mirrors that create a “crystal look,” reflecting light like jewelry. The grouping includes seven pieces: waste basket, lotion pump, soap dish, perfume mirror tray, cup holder, toothbrush holder and boutique tissue box cover.
Recycled Cotton
The Regenerated Towel by Home Source International is made with 20 percent recycled and 80 percent virgin cotton. The towel is soft, absorbent and earth-friendly—the recycled cotton reduces the need to grow new cotton, which requires pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers—all of which are harmful to the soil.
Tile Tale The Frosted Mini Tile shower curtain from J. Queen New York captures a clean, fresh look in its contemporary styling. Accessories that complement are also available.
Color Burst
New from Abyss & Habidecor is the Arizona bath mat made with 80 percent combed cotton and 20 percent acrylic that pairs a neutral ivory with colorful stripes and coordinates with a range of solid-colored towels.
Herringbone In The Bath
Made with 50 percent combed cotton and 50 percent acrylic, the Couture bath mat from Abyss & Habidecor translates the trend of menswear influences into a herringbone pattern—a modern look from an updated classic that pairs well with coordinating solids.
Rhapsody of Colors
The expanded range of Rhapsody Royale towels, the Chortex classic branded towels made in Turkey with fine Egyptian long-staple cotton, includes bath and hand towels, washcloths, bath sheets and mats.

Leading suppliers of bath textiles and accessories explore design and quality issues and reveal future product line directions

Each new bath product and accessory is created after dozens of decisions are made about what matters most in shaping it—decisions regarding materials, style and embellishments to quality, pricing and the technologies used in the manufacturing process. This SMART Report explores some of these factors, revealing insights from leading bath product suppliers on what led to the decisions they made in shaping their products, including trends in design, the effect of recession recovery on quality and new directions in products they are planning for the future.

Design & Style

When it comes to design, the marketplace offers a range of on-trend style options. Keith Sorgeloos, president/ceo, Home Source International, notes, “Solid towels are still the kingpin, but differentiated solids that may apply texture, unique looks and innovative fibers or style and design features.”

“Our big focus is on three-dimensional trims both in towels and bath accessories,” says Jeff Kaufman, president/coo, Avanti Linens. “This has been a strong trend for the past two markets and we see it continuing going forward.”

According to Eric Vergucht, sales representative, Chortex USA, “Our sculpted towels, such as Oxford and Honeycomb, are doing very well with repeat orders from our customers.”

Other embellishments and textures are also finding their way into bath textiles. Pegeen Cooper, vice-president merchandising, Croscill Home, reveals, “Where textiles are concerned, ‘bling’ in the form of sequins, glitter, crystals and other embellishments remain popular, as well as woven blends of luxurious constructions.”

She lists chenille, shimmery fabrics, bold prints, tropical and coastal looks, Jacobean designs and damasks as all on trend, accentuated by fabric manipulation, embroidery, pleats, appliqué and engineered looks.

In bath accessories, woods, such as rosewood and teak, woven pandanus, shell and stone from Indonesia are popular. According to Cooper, still important is ceramic, as well as earthenware with decals, stoneware and porcelain with special detailing.

In spite of the interest in embellishments, Randy Wright, senior vice-president, Taymor Industries, observes that contemporary styling is gaining over traditional approaches. “Style and design are determined by the function of the item, but cleaner lines and less Old World appointments and finishes are requested,” he says. “There seems to be a trend in the buyers wanting higher-end items and luxury materials, such as Brazilian teak, high-grade stainless steel and thicker metal gauges.”

“Baltic Linen is adjusting the product offerings to include natural materials, while providing selling features and value-added attributes,” Kevin Kuehl, president Home Fashions Division, Baltic Linen Company. “Mixed media, including combinations of metal, glass, stone, woods and sustainable materials, are driving our styles and trends.”
Inspirational themes are proving successful for Saturday Knight Ltd. “Maybe it is a sign of the times that people feel with everything going on they need that piece of inspiration in their lives every day,” explains Dianne Weidman, vice-president of Sales and Design, Saturday Knight Ltd. “We are also getting a lot of calls for novelty looks. In that category, owls seem to be doing very well.”

The Demand For Quality

As the recession recovery slowly gets underway and the price of cotton declines, moderate and high-end suppliers are finding that discerning consumers are spending for quality.

Linda S. Kulla, FIFDA, vice-president Bath Division, Bardwil Industries, Inc. reveals, “We did not add poly to our collection and continued to offer luxury yarns and high-end goods. I think there definitely is a place for price-driven merchandise, but high-quality branded goods continued to sell throughout the downturn in the economy. When the consumer knows and trusts your brand, they remain loyal to it.”

Leslie Connell, vice-president of U.S. sales and operations, Abyss & Habidecor, relates that the luxury sector seems to be on the rebound. “We are back to the level of what we sold in 2007,” she says. “Top retail customers have invested in us as a vendor, so that we have a huge presence and branding is at the level where consumers ask for the brand.”

Connell explains that in the past three years, Abyss & Habidecor has emphasized in-store training with retail teams, giving them bath towels for personal use so that they could familiarize themselves with the product. The company also provided handfuls of the raw materials to sales associates that they could show to consumers in explaining why those luxury products cost more. (For more insights into pricing issues, see “Industry Views” on p. 6.)

New Technologies & Directions

Whether it’s materials or manufacturing processes, suppliers are vigilant in searching out directions that incorporate added benefits and value into their products.

“We produce new technology in new looms, and our designers and engineers learn how to manipulate the looms to create product innovations,” says Connell. This year, the company introduced 26 new colors. In the future, it plans to debut a line of multi-colored jacquard towels.

“We were the first to bring pearl fiber to the market with its 100 percent absorbency benefit. We continue to research new yarns and are looking at some new technologies that will address energy efficiency and eco-friendly development,” says Bardwil’s Kulla.

Greatest Challenges Facing The Bath Sector

“The greatest challenge is keeping the collection fresh and exciting. We have fun doing it, so it doesn’t feel like a challenge.”—Leslie Connell, Abyss & Habidecor

“The biggest challenge is developing new products as quickly as possible. Taymor’s new product introductions have become seasonal, similar to apparel, instead of annual. The first one to get the new items in front of a buyer is usually the first one to get the order.”—Randy Wright, Taymor Industries, Inc.

“The greatest problem facing the bath category is the instability in the material and manufacturing costs.”—Kevin Kuehl, Baltic Linen Company

“[The greatest challenge is] pricing—facing significant cost increases in China on bath accessories without any real alternative. On the towel side, India is a much better option and provides an alternative to China.”—Jeff Kaufman, Avanti Linens

“On the supply side, the cost of all raw materials continues to rise, as well as the cost of energy, fuel, freight, and let’s not forget labor overseas.

“In addition, there are fewer workers willing to labor in textile and accessory factories when they now have more opportunities to work in high-tech or consumer electronics facilities. Some textile mills and accessories factories have closed, with those remaining hit by labor shortages, longer lead times and higher costs passed onto vendors.

“On the retail side, there are fewer customers whose floor space is more eagerly sought after by competing vendors. Retailers want to maintain or grow their margins, keeping their same price structure, which is obviously a challenge for the vendor community.”—Pegeen Cooper, Croscill Home

“With all the pressure that retailers face on providing a high dollar per square foot, the bath accessory category is under constant pressure to improve its retail productivity. Some retail customers are forced to reduce space devoted to the bath accessory category in favor of product categories that produce higher dollars per square foot.”—Don Whittam, J. Queen New York

“There was chaos when [cotton] pricing went up and there will be again as it goes down, especially in 2013 when current supplies of cotton have been sold through by year’s end and new cotton futures are purchased in the next few months.”—Keith Sorgeloos, Home Source International

“The greatest challenge is producing the right product at the right price and catching the consumer’s attention in a sea of towels.”—Linda S. Kulla, FIFDA, Bardwil Industries, Inc.

“By introducing natural materials and mixed media looks, we are able to provide our customers sustainable products with features and benefits that aren’t included in resin and ceramic,” explains Kuehl.

Baltic Linen is launching the Robin Wilson Home brand in fashion bedding, bath towels and bath accessories during the upcoming September New York Home Fashions Market. “The products will include natural materials and hypoallergenic bath towels in order to provide an improved home environment for those suffering from asthma,” says Kuehl.

“We have been getting increased requests for more teak- and bamboo-inspired items, but only using the quality woods such as Brazilian teak, which is considered one of the best available,” explains Wright. “We are incorporating this in spa towers and shower seats along with the #304 solid stainless steel, the same steel used in commercial grab bars.”

Vergucht points out that social responsibility is part of the Chortex philosophy. “We produce towels in Africa which are linked to charity,” says Vergucht.

J. Queen New York’s direction expands beyond products into fixturing. “We are looking to offer retail solutions to our customers in an effort to maximize productivity in the fashion accessory business on the retail floor. This will include creative fixturing and presentation of our product, as well as line extensions to add value in the sale to the end consumer,” says Don Whittam, executive vice-president Merchandising & Operations, J. Queen New York.

Avanti Linens is starting to ship designs acquired from its takeover of Blonder. “The customer reaction has been very strong. We’re covering a niche that Blonder owned and that retailers saw as a void in the market with its demise,” says Kaufman.

In spite of a sluggish economy, bath product suppliers continue to innovate to keep pace with evolving retailer and consumer needs.

Vanity Jewels
Taymor introduces the Crystal Mirror Collection made with clean-lined, beveled-edge mirrors that create a “crystal look,” reflecting light like jewelry. The grouping includes seven pieces: waste basket, lotion pump, soap dish, perfume mirror tray, cup holder, toothbrush holder and boutique tissue box cover.
Recycled Cotton
The Regenerated Towel by Home Source International is made with 20 percent recycled and 80 percent virgin cotton. The towel is soft, absorbent and earth-friendly—the recycled cotton reduces the need to grow new cotton, which requires pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers—all of which are harmful to the soil.
Tile Tale The Frosted Mini Tile shower curtain from J. Queen New York captures a clean, fresh look in its contemporary styling. Accessories that complement are also available.
Color Burst
New from Abyss & Habidecor is the Arizona bath mat made with 80 percent combed cotton and 20 percent acrylic that pairs a neutral ivory with colorful stripes and coordinates with a range of solid-colored towels.
Asian Influence
The Baltic Linen Company incorporates Japanese influences into the Shoji bathroom accessories, which feature miniature shoji-screen style geometrics.
3D Florals
Towels in the Mademoiselle Collection (above right) from Avanti Linens feature a three-dimensional attached border trim in tone-on- tone neutrals.
Animal Print Embellishing
The Chic Collection (above left) from Avanti Linens includes mocha towels adorned with animal-print rosettes attached to a tonal band. Chic is one of 12 styles in the Romantic Collection that feature three- dimensional embellishments.
 

Home Source To Open U.S. Manufacturing Plant

Home Source International has collaborated with the State of Florida to build a 300,000-square-foot facility in Marianna, FL. The plant, slated to open this summer, will host manufacturing operations for cut-and-sew home textiles, as well as furniture and lighting to support Home Source’s newest acquisition, Shiner International.

Home Source’s strategic initiatives for this facility include better servicing for the retail and hospitality industries with differentiated and innovative product at advantageous cost, in addition to better lead times, quicker turnaround, smaller minimums and more flexible supply chain logistics and replenishment.

“We are proud to once again bring ‘Crafted with Pride in the U.S.A.’ back to these industries, as well as the people who once earned their living manufacturing home textiles and furnishings,” says Keith Sorgeloos, president and ceo of Home Source International. “Home Source looks forward to many years of success in building a business and community the old-fashioned way . . . supporting ‘Made in U.S.A.’ and American jobs.”

“After recently visiting more than 15 rural counties statewide, I know how important these jobs are to Jackson County,” says Florida Governor, Rick Scott. “Home Source International’s choice of Florida’s Great Northwest demonstrates that all of our communities are competitive, regardless of their size and population. It also shows that Florida possesses the talent, resources and business climate to encourage companies to expand and create jobs in our state.”

The Jackson County Development Council and the City of Marianna partnered with Enterprise Florida to land the project.

“The City of Marianna is very pleased to welcome Home Source International to our building at the Marianna Airport and Industrial Park,” says Marianna Mayor, James Wise. “We look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship as Home Source grows its manufacturing and distribution in Marianna.”

 

Resources

 


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