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Catalog Coming Home: Lands' End unit goes private label.

DODGEVILLE, Wis. (FNS)--Coming Home, the home division of Lands' End, is dropping the last branded items from its catalog and reinforcing its Coming Home brand in home textiles.

The May-June Coming Home catalog is the last that will carry Fieldcrest's Charisma Classic 310-count Supima sheets, which Coming Home has included in its books since November 1992.

The mail-order retailer also intends to hold the line on quality, even if it means an increase in prices, and to concentrate on soft home rather than other furnishings, said Phil Young, managing director of Coming Home in an interview at Lands' End headquarters here. Young had been general merchandise manager for Coming Home and was named head of the division after Michael J. Smith, vice president of Coming Home, was named president and chief executive of Lands' End in December.

"Charisma did sell well," said Young, "but we fell Coming Home is a brand in itself and want to develop the best Coming Home products we can."

He added that Coming Home is "very efficient" in dealing directly with mills and selling directly to the public. "We want to get the best value and price we can," he said.

In the May-June catalog, a Charisma twin flat sheet was priced at $55, compared to $18 for Coming Home's 250-count Supima sheet and $60 for Coming Home's 340-count sateen sheets. Catalog copy noted Charisma "is not a Coming Home Sheet That Fits, but one of the pioneers in deeper-pocket sheets, and we're proud to include it in our collection." The copy also pointed out the pockets on Charisma's fitted sheets are 11 1/4 inches versus the 12 inches that Coming Home touts for its fitted sheets.

Coming Home experimented with a handful of other branded products, such as a bedroom ensemble by Liberty of London for WestPoint Pepperell and Fieldcrest's Charisma Chevron towel in late 1992, early 1993, but dropped all but the Charisma sheets.

In the May-June catalog, Young warned customers that an increase in the price of cotton will mean price increases on Coming Home products.

Although he has been with Coming Home for two years, Young noted his background is in apparel. He said he was stunned at the emphasis the home textiles industry puts on prices.

"The primary focus of the competition at retail is price. We think that is great for us," he said. "We are going to emphasize the quality and uniqueness of our products. We will not compete on price."

Retailers' price emphasis, coupled with its reliance on white sales, he added, provided the niche for Coming Home in the first place.

"Customers don't feel they have to catch us on a given day to get a good price," commented Mary Nordloh, creative director and editor of the Coming Home catalog.

Coming Home is not above price comparisons, however. A catalog headline for a Supima towel pointed out: "The one from Coming Home is $14--always. The other one is $20-- but only on sale days." As for Coming Home's $9 combed cotton towel, "It's 5 inches longer and two bucks less," claimed the catalog.

Coming Home's focus, however, is at the higher end of the market. Along with the $14 Supima towel, the company offers an $18 Egyptian cotton towel.

In sheets, the catalog starts with 200-count cotton-poly blend sheets at $9 for a twin (there is a 180-count 50/50 blend in white and ecru for $6) and 200-count cotton at $14, but emphasizes its 250-count Supima solids at $18.

At the higher end, Coming Home offers its 340-count cotton sateen sheets at $60 for a twin sheet. The most recent catalog also had oxford cloth sheets at $25 for a twin, 50-50 linen-cotton sheets from Portugal at $40, and Irish linen sheets at $130.

Nordloh noted that, while the catalog appears to emphasize solids over prints, "there is a good balance of solids and prints, but the wide range of thread counts and styles available gives the impression of more solids."

Coming Home generally photographs its print patterns with coordinating solids and offers customers several suggestions for print-solid combinations. Kim Vasquez, design director, noted patterns must have "classic looks, patterns the customer can have for a long time. We also keep in mind how they will coordinate."

Unlike Lands' End's major catalog competitors, L.L. Bean and Eddie Bauer, Coming Home has no plans to add furniture to its product mix.

"Anything is possible, but our focus is soft home," said Young. "Our expertise dates from selling flannel sheets starting in 1981. Coming Home was started because of our knowledge in fabrications and the cut-and-sew business."

Soft home does include window treatments, and Young noted customer response has been strong for custom aluminum mini blinds in 30 colors, 1-and 2-inch custom wooden blinds in eight finishes, and custom cellular shades in 30 colors.

"A surprisingly small number" of customers mess up the measuring when ordering blinds, noted Nordloh. Coming Home sends swatch kits on request so customers can pick colors.

Coming Home felt the retail pricing practices of the blinds business made that category particularly vulnerable. "Customers see prices marked 40 percent off, 70 percent off. With us, they get the same price every day," said Young.

Coming Home also offers children's sheets and towels, table linens, and a variety of seasonal items such as beach towels and Christmas throws. Handmade quilts from the Amish and from China are a key niche business.

Coming Home's customer is "a very educated woman," receptive to the detailed explanations of product features included in the catalogs, "the kind of explanations you used to get in department stores," Nordloh elaborated.

In addition, Coming Home fills about 94 percent of its orders immediately, noted Dana Plazkill, inventory manager, a fulfillment rate higher than parent Lands' End's.

Coming Home operates one outlet store under its own name, in Des Moines, Iowa, next to a Lands' End outlet store. The two stores have separate outside entrances but are open to each other inside.

"The purpose of this store, like the Lands' End outlets, is to liquidate overstocks," said Young. All of the other 13 Lands' End outlets carry Coming Home overstocks, and there are no plans to add additional separate Coming Home outlets.

Coming Home is participating in the tests of various electronic media that Lands' End is trying, including CompuServe and Prodigy.

"We are trying to find out how to use these media," said Nordloh.

Coming Home mailed nine catalogs in 1994; Young declined to say if that number will change this year.

The division does not currently offer products in the catalogs Lands' End distributes in Japan and Great Britain. "We would have to make sure there was a niche available to fill before going into the international business," noted Young.

Lands' End does not disclose separate sales results for Coming Home. Lands' End's sales topped $992 million last year.
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Author:Brumback, Nancy
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Date:Jun 5, 1995
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