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Complete bath: Major mills make a splash with coordinates.

NEW YORK--For instant bath coordination, just add water.

With a deluge of new products from Springs, Fieldcrest Cannon and WestPoint Stevens, retailers at this week's market can expect to see more coordinated bath merchandise from the three major domestics mills than ever before.

The mills are going full force after this growing area. Springs, in its second major presentation since last year's acquisitions of Dundee Mills and Dawson Home Fashions, is introducing double the number of bath coordinates.

Fieldcrest Cannon, the leading solid color towel supplier, is making its largest coordinated bath push ever. And WestPoint Stevens is beefing up its bath coordinates through new licensing agreements with Creative Bath and Imperial Wall-coverings.

The mills are getting increasingly sophisticated in their bath offerings, going beyond matched prints and adding more solid colors and complementary patterns to give consumers the same mix-and-match choices they have in bedding.

The key elements in coordinated bath are towels, shower curtains, bath rugs and accessories such as tumblers, lotion dispensers, tissue holders and wastepaper baskets. New types of related accessories, such as laundry hampers, are providing additional sales opportunities.

The mills say their ability to offer the complete range of products from a single source is a big advantage they have over independents.

"We can offer the whole range of products for the bathroom and that certainly has been our focus," said Crandall Bowles, president of Springs Bath Fashions Group, the leading mill in coordinated bath. "I think that is an advantage for use and our customers and it makes us a single source supplier."

In the past, bath coordinates mainly have been supplied by independents, such as Ex-Cell Home Fashions, Creative Bath and Dawson, before it was acquired by Springs. Other traditional bedding suppliers, such as Croscill, Crown Crafts and Revman, also are turning their attention to this growth area.

Buyers shopping the showrooms will see more coordinated products from the mills than ever. Some of the highlights:

* Springs Bath is making a major statement with new cotton accent rugs, made with its StyleTuft process, and offering a new mid-level towel, all under the Wamsutta brand. Other new categories are jacquard shower curtains, laundry hampers and fashion tub mats.

* Fieldcrest Cannon is introducing a new luxury bath franchise to coordinate with its Court of Versailles bedding collection, featuring lace embellishments. In its second market, the mill is expanding its Ellen Tracy and Waverly bath coordinates, and continuing to emphasize Charisma, Royal Velvet, Adrienne Vittadini and Fieldcrest branded products in coordinated bath.

* Under WestPoint's new license, Creative Bath will coordinate shower curtains and accessories with the mill's Atelier Martex and Martex Weekend collections. Imperial is providing coordinate wallcoverings.

"The ability to coordinate a broad variety of bath products is advantageous to the retailer," said Dale Williams, vice president at WestPoint Stevens. "Our retail partners are increasingly merchandising the bath category, particularly fancy jacquard printed towels, with coordinates. This is an effort to enhance our retail partnerships."

The goal for retailers and manufacturers is add-on sales.

Fieldcrest Cannon's Robert Hamilton, divisional vice president and business manager of bath, made this comparison. "Obviously, we'd rather sell a suit of clothes than the shirt," he said. "The bedding community has learned it and proven it by selling total rooms. We need to sell a total environment and not just towels."

Williams said, "It's not an imperative of ours to sell more towels. Consumers are still buying towels, but they're also buying a larger decorating statement."

Barry Leonard, president of retail sales and marketing for Springs Bath, said, "I think the retailer realizes there's tremendous space productivity improvement with the coordinated sale because you get a higher transaction."

The mills are coordinating bedding patterns with bath accessories. One example can be seen in Springs' Liz at Home collection, where the bath division was involved from the very start. This market, the interaction between the two divisions can be seen in bed-bath coordination in Bill Blass and Collier Compbell licenses.

"Springs' strategic advantage is not just bath coordination, but bed and bath coordination," said Leonard. "There's a lot of ways that is very efficient for the retailer."

By offering products that coordinate across both categories, retailers can advertise the same pattern in bed and bath.

Springs has been successful in bringing its upscale Wamsutta brand into the bathroom, and its new towels and accessories under the label are enjoying excellent sell-through at retail, executives said. The towels are offered in many of the same colors as its Wamsutta sheets.

"We have been very pleased with the acceptance of Wamsutta in bath," Bowles said. "It illustrates that the strength of the Wamsutta brand in bedding has been able to be transferred into the bath area."

Springs will continue to expand its offerings under that label with the new accent rugs and a mid-range $9.99 towel to round out its good-better-best selection of Wamsutta towels. The 30 by 56-inch, 18-pound towel is positioned between the Wamsutta and upper-end Wamsutta Elite brands.

Fieldcrest and WestPoint Stevens are tying their best-selling patterns in bedding to bath coordinates. WestPoint's bath products coordinate with two of its most important bedding franchises, Atelier and Weekend.

When Fieldcrest launched its Ellen Tracy collection last market, it included bath, and now the mill continues to build on those offerings. New from the designer this market is Paisley, a colorful paisley design, and Savannah, a soft green floral, in shower curtains, towels and rugs.

The latest bedding franchise from Fieldcrest to be extended to bath is Court of Versailles. A panel lace shower curtain, lace porcelain ceramic accessories and four towels with different lace embellishments are being shown.

WestPoint Stevens will offer three coordinated ensembles with Creative Bath. They include Tapestry Rose, a combed Egyptian towel, in the Atelier line; Weekend Basket Weave in the Martex Weekend collection, and Gingham Roses, an existing pattern.

Mills are constantly looking for new areas to coordinate. Springs is entering into coordinated laundry hampers, tub mats and cotton accent rugs this market.

"There's a lot of me-too products in coordination," said Rick Alamedine, Springs' vice president of corporate planning. "We're talking to the consumer and asking, `What else do you use? What else do you want coordinated?' "

Fieldcrest Cannon offers related accessories, too. In Vittadini, it adds a fabric-covered hamper and leg bench to coordinate with its Winston pattern, a men's wear look in houndstooth. In Waverly, a wide range of fabric accessories is available, including hampers, benches, covered shower rings and baskets.

Rugs are a big growth area. Springs made a major investment in equipment to make its new cotton rugs, using the StyleTuft process, which will allow it to offer accent rugs at reasonable price points, Bowles said. Before, the rugs were offered in polyester-nylon blends.

Fieldcrest Cannon has a significant solid-color rug business that it continues to expand and promote, Hamilton said.

WestPoint Stevens has had a successful four-year relationship with Regal to produce coordinated bath rugs, Williams said.

The mills have come a long way in bath coordination over the last year, though each began at a different starting point. Springs bought its leadership position in the category with two acquisitions; Fieldcrest has developed its programs internally and through sourcing, and WestPoint Stevens has entered licensing agreements.

Springs moved into a leading position in coordinated bath through two strategic acquisitions, Dundee and Dawson, which gave the company the one element it felt it was missing: terry towels from Dundee. The Dawson purchase strengthened Springs' position in shower curtains.

The mill has developed coordinated products among the leading brands from its acquisitions--Centennial and Palatial--as well as Wamsutta.

"We have dominant positions in the accessories, shower curtains and bath rug categories, but obviously not in towels," said Bowles. "Now that we're able to offer towels, we can offer an across-the-board breadth of product line like no one else."

Fieldcrest Cannon's basis for building a coordinated bath story was a solid-color towel program under the Royal Velvet and Charisma names. Shower curtains to match its towels and rugs were added two years ago. "We wanted to build atop our franchises established in bath via towels," Hamilton said. "It's a huge and important position."

The mill's strategy has been three-fold: to extend the Royal Velvet and Charisma franchises into coordinated bath; to introduce designer bath coordinates representing different design points of view, and to add trendier, up-to-date coordinates under the Fieldcrest and Royal Family names.

As the mill has learned more about essentially managing four businesses--towels, rugs, shower curtains and accessories--instead of just towels, its ability to serve retailers has improved, Hamilton said.

WestPoint Stevens got into coordinated bath from its strength in towels as the number-three domestics mill. It signed the Creative Bath and Imperial agreements last month.

"We wanted a broader, more fully coordinated collection," Williams said. "This gives us the opportunity to bring to the market a broader breadth of product to be available in conjunction with our bath programs. The licensing agreements allow us to respond to a rapidly growing area in a fully coordinated way."
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Title Annotation:textile manufacturers
Author:Frinton, Sandra
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Article Type:Product Announcement
Date:Apr 22, 1996
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