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Great match: bed and bath are beautiful together, vendors say.

ATLANTA (FNS) - Bathroom designer Merrie Fredericks' customers want master bedroom-bath suites, and they always want them coordinated.

Her clients, who are upper or upper-middle class, are opting for bigger bath areas and often a sitting area in the master suite. Then they want to tie the two or three areas - including walk-in closets - together with furnishings in some way, perhaps by matching the wood of the bath cabinets to the bedroom furniture, explained Fredericks, who is president of Design Concepts Plus, Havertown, Pa.

The suites are primarily for adults, but some are for older, high school-aged children, as well, she continued.

As, a result of this home market trend, home textiles manufacturers are putting more emphasis on tying together their bed and bath lines.

Bay Linens started merchandising coordinated bed and bath products about a year ago, according to Tim Beck, national sales manager. "It's a growing trend, and it has a strong, steady growth pattern to it," he said.

Scott Schwarz, vice president of sales for Textile Industries U.S.A., which makes the Sheridan and Carrington brands, said: "We see this as a huge growth opportunity for us. It's not a major part of sales, but it is additional sales, and it makes us more of a presence in the marketplace."

According to the National Association of Home Builders, there is a definite desire for master suites in better houses. Gopal Ahluwalia, director of research for NAHB, noted: "If they're buying a 3,000- to 4,000-square-foot home, they'll get the master bedroom suite."

And Chris Nicholson, communications manager for the NAHB's Remodelers Council, reported that master suites am popular with empty nesters. "You'll see more people converting their homes to fit their lifestyles," he said.

Leslie Hart, publisher and editorial director of Kitchen & Bath Business, which covers the remodeling business, said of the trend: "Basically, the psychology of the trend is that the bath is opening up and isn't as private as it used to be. People are finding that the bath is a relaxation area. And, one of the most important times to spend together is in the morning when they can converse. For those with children, it's a retreat area."

Scott White, vice president of the Bibb Co., said coordinated bed and bath is not necessarily more profitable than non-coordinated businesses, but it gives stores more opportunities to advertise and sell because "they have a broader story to tell and it gets repeat customers. It helps build their business."

Keith Winn, manager of accessories for Croscill, said, "It's somewhat more profitable, but not tremendously so. It's a profitable business because of the multiple sales."

Gabrielle Colquitt, vice president of design for Home Innovations' bath division, agreed that coordinated looks are not necessarily more profitable than non-coordinates, but added, "It's a necessary thing in this day and age to coordinate."

While the demand for coordinated bed and bath products is increasing, manufacturers are not entirely pleased with retailers' merchandising efforts. The problem is space limitations, the manufacturers said, but several added that retailers could get around that by including one or two coordinated bath items in a bedroom setting, or representative bedding samples in a bath vignette. Signs could alert consumers to the existence of coordinating merchandise in another department.

Catalogs, which don't have the space problem, do a great job of presenting bed and bath, according to vendors.

Retailers across the distribution chain, from mass merchants to department and specialty stores, carry coordinated bath and bed products. Merchants making good presentations on the specialty store side include Strouds and Pacific Linen. Department stores include Dillard's, Macy's and May Co. On the mass market side, manufacturers say that Target is doing a good job and Wal-Mart is improving.

Bonnie Pearl, national account manager for Springs Bath, said the Liz at Home collection by Liz Claiborne was presented as a "cohesive program for bed and bath. We designed them together - although the success stories have not been the same in bed and bath. Certain colors lend themselves to one or the other."

Liz at Home is the exception. Most manufacturers primarily design bath coordinates based on bedspread or comforter designs. Bath rarely comes first.

Bay Linens' Beck said his company takes its four or five strongest selling bedding patterns (monochromatic jacquards and traditional prints) and coordinates a bath line with them. But because bath colors are "brighter and livelier" than bedroom colors, the company's designer and owner, Dianne Morris, takes an accent color from the bedding and makes that the dominant bath color. She repeats or reinterprets the bedding pattern in the shower curtain and towel embellishments.

"Not only does it coordinate with the bedding," said Beck, "It also can stand alone without the bedding because many stores can't cross-merchandise. With catalogs it's fine, but stores have space limitations and can't do it."

Springs' approach to the Liz at Home collection also was to avoid taking a matchy-matchy approach. "We're trying to merchandise it so it coordinates, if not necessarily matches," Pearl elaborated. "We tie things together by color groupings."

Pearl said the sell-through on bath items has "really been great. It's the shining star for a lot of bath departments." She attributed the success to dedicated Liz environments within bath departments. Photos or chromes clue in the consumer to the existence of coordinated bedding. Also, the packaging for shower curtains and comforters tells a cross-merchandising story so customers know the products are available.

And just as fabric-covered bath accessories such as tissue boxes, waste baskets and picture frames are frequently used in the bedroom (indeed, are probably more suitable for a dry environment) the Liz at Home bath line includes ceramic bath accessories, such as candlesticks, carafes and pitchers, which can work well in a bedroom.

Bibb provides coordinated bed and bath furnishings for children, according to White. He added that coordinated looks for juvenile bed and bath aren't as big a business as adult coordinates, but they are expected to grow.

"As more opportunities present themselves, we'll be moving into that area," White said, "No one else is doing this yet, but it's coming." The company, based in Macon, Ga., makes some bed and bath coordinates for children over age seven, and has licenses with the NFL, Major Baseball League and Warner Brothers for the patterns.

All of Bibb's adult lines coordinate bath to bedding. Jessica McClintock, which is licensed, is Bibb's major brand push.

The Jessica McClintock bath line includes shower curtains, jacquard and printed towels that coordinate with the bedding, hand-painted ceramic accessories, braided rugs as large as 8 by 10 (making them usable as bath or bedroom rugs) bath window curtains and valances, and accessories such as fabric-covered jewelry boxes, picture frames, tissue boxes and waste baskets, vanity trays and a 10-inch lamp shade.

The McClintock line has "timeless looks," according to White, that also work well in older children's rooms.

But Bibb also offers coordinated bath for Joseph Abboud and Fendi ensembles, as well as for its studio bedding marketed under Royalton department store and Dream Styles mass market labels.

Croscill's Winn said his company started offering bath ensembles four to five years ago based on its successful bedroom patterns. It did so at the request of retailers who realized that "a good pattern is a good pattern" and it could sell throughout the house. The idea was not to merchandise them as bed and bath coordinates.

Consumers with master bed-bath suites are a limited market, and even more limited when one considers that not all of these consumers want to use the same pattern for both bedroom and bath furnishings, Winn noted. "That's why we market our bed and bath products as separate rooms."

To underscore his point, Winn pointed out that most manufacturers who do bed and bath create separate bed and bath divisions and that the divisions "don't really communicate with each other."

While few consumers want to beat a pattern into the ground by doing their bed and bath in it, Winn believes there's interest among consumers in coordinating the two rooms by color theme of hardware finishes, starting with drapery hardware and extending to metal waste baskets and tissue baskets and shower curtain rings. Croscill started with a gold theme and two markets ago added antique looks, using a black-based patina with sponged-on green or rust, and softer looks, such as white, beige and gray.

Croscill's accessories include lamps and lamp shades, ceramic bath accessories, rugs, wallpaper, fabric-covered accessories such as waste baskets and tissue boxes, hampers, shower curtains and wall art.

One reason coordinated rooms have caught on, Winn said, is that consumers don't have the time to shop that they used to have. "If you present it in a concise way, it makes it easy for them to understand it and buy it," he said. Croscill illustrates the coordinates on inserts in its packaging and provides shops for many of its customers. "That's an important part of our business, too," he said. "Making sure that things are put up properly and with the right components."

Ed Vairo, director of creative marketing, Crown Crafts, said that, almost without exception, his company offers bath ensembles with its bedroom ensembles. "It's the bed ensemble that makes the priciple statement," he explained. "What drives [the coordination] is the pattern on top of the bedspread or comforter."

The Crown Crafts shower curtain is either the bedding pattern or a version of the pattern (including a solid color), Vairo continued. Towels could have a jacquard design taken from the bedding or ruffle made out of fabric from the bedding.

Crown Crafts makes the bedroom ensemble, but licenses out the accessories and bath products.

Vairo said that Crown Crafts sees the push for coordinated looks across its distribution channels. "It exists from the Wal-Mart and Target level up to the Bloomingdale's level," he said.

Crown Crafts has Royal Sateen shops of coordinated bed and bath at Marshall Field's downtown Chicago store, Macy's Herald Square, Bloomingdale's on 59th Street in New York City and in Boca Raton, Fla., seven or eight in Burdines stores, Pacific Linen's Overland Park unit near Kansas City, and several Dillard's stores.

The company also has a Crown Crafts shop at Pacific Linen (the Overland Park unit) and plans to open more, and is introducing a Williamsburg prototype shop at the upcoming Belk show in Charlotte, N.C., after which Belk will roll out the Williamsburg shops in several units.

Home Innovations has four divisions - bedding, bath, slip-covers, and windows - that are operates separately but coordinate products when it's appropriate. Lynn Ostro, vice president of design for bedding, said that her division is coordinating bed and bath more and more often, but the majority of sales still comes from non-coordinates. She added that it can be more profitable because the consumer probably will buy more if the items are coordinated.

"It's an SKU-happy business," she said.

Although most patterns are bedding-driven, she continued, some ideas do come from the bath.

However, she said she doesn't believe that retailers are presenting it well because their bed and bath areas are so far apart. The company sells its Home Innovations line to department and specialty stores, its licensed Eileen West by Home Innovations line to department and specialty stores, and R. A. Briggs to mass merchandisers. The coordinated bed and bath is in Home Innovations and R. A. Briggs, and the company is adding it to Eileen West.

Burlington House also is emphasizing coordinated bed and bath designs in its upstairs line, Burlington House Textured Weaves. "The consumer is seeking more textured looks in decorating their homes and coordinated products build a volume dollar per sale for the retailer," said Paula Neustat, merchandise director.

The company makes the bedding and licenses the bath products. Neustat said that Burlington House uses two to four coordinated fabrics in an ensemble and then develops the accessories with the top of the bed and the coordinated fabrics. "That enhances the layered look of the ensemble and gives it more of a luxurious look" she said.

Steve Pianowski, business manager for bedding at Fieldcrest, said of the trend: "As an industry, we've been trying to sell the customer the entire room; now we can extend that to the next room." Fieldcrest's New York showroom features bath next to bedroom products, and the company currently is working on a prototype shop concept for stores, Home Depot Expo already has such a shop, and it makes quite a statement.

Although Pianowski said he believes that bedroom and bath products should remain separate areas (because consumers go to the bath area to buy bath products and vice versa), he would like to see retailers do a better job of presenting the rooms. "It only can be pulled together in a designer shop concept," he said.

He added that some bath accessories, such as potpourri containers, can even be used in the bedroom, further connecting the rooms. Fieldcrest's lines are Royal Velvet, Charisma, Adrienne Vittadini, and Ellen Tracy, which will debut for retailers at the October market.

The TI-USA's Sheridan and Carrington lines have offered coordinated bed and bath from the get-go, said Schwarz, but the concept has taken off recently with the hiring of Terry Soldati as senior product manager.

TI-USA is coordinating its bath products to all of its best-selling bed patterns. One of the company's strengths is its ability to make panel-printed shower curtains and bed covers. This provides strikingly dramatic designs.

One of Soldati's jobs is to make sure the company is using the right licensees. It licenses ceramics to Arc Distributors, fabrics-covered accessories, laminates and printed and embellished towels to FR Industries, wallcoverings to Imperial, braided rugs to Colonial Mills, and lamps and shades to Robert Abbey.

"We have a schematic in our showroom that shows buyers how to display the coordinates in a retail atmosphere," said Soldati, adding that TI-USA got a good response to its expanded effort at April Market, which is when it added the coordination shop to its showroom. "It shows how serious we are about this," she said.

TI-USA has Sheridan shops showing coordinated bed and bath in department stores. They "give the consumer a sense that the product they're buying has longevity. If they buy the valance first, they can come back later and buy the associated products. And, it makes it worthwhile to the consumer who can look around and say `What a great job I've done decorating.'"

But Schwartz said the company is putting less emphasis on opening new boutiques, which is expensive, and more emphasis on broadening its distribution.
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Author:Lloyd, Brenda
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Date:Jul 17, 1995
Words:2434
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