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Bedding goes way of organics, naturally


NEW YORK —Trends evident at Domestics Week, held in New York Aug. 6 to 10, seemed to be largely consistent with a recent research study on the soft home sector in the United States conducted by Research and Markets. Both study and market demonstrate that vendors and retailers are working with some success at adapting to rapidly shifting market trends.

The study, “Outlook for Bed and Bath Linens in the United States,” identified the major drivers of the market as product replacement, young people and affordable at-home luxury. Although the three factors may not seem to provide an opportunity for big sales gains—as none suggest a surge in purchasing or a consumer craving to spend more money on sheets and towels—in its 2005 to 2006 study period, Research and Markets reported that U.S. bed and bath linen sales gained by 10.3%, suggesting that manufacturers and retailers have been able to develop effective strategies as they have adjusted to opportunities that have become more narrow and specific in nature.

Meijer is building on a prominent brand familiar to folks who are refreshing already established households, or those setting up new ones, who want quality at a price. During Domestics Week, the retailer was finalizing plans for a 112-linear-foot Cannon display in its stores, part of up to 150 linear feet devoted to two labels, Cannon Classic and Cannon Royal Family, said a Meijer spokesman. The move gives Meijer a national-brand focal point for its soft home section.

At Official Pillowtex, which owns the Cannon brand, Meijer wasn’t the only news out of market week. Howard Dietch, director of licensing and new business development, said the company has made a deal that will produce electric blankets under its Cannon and Royal Velvet names, which could set up a challenge to Sunbeam in the mass market. “I was excited to find someone to do electric blankets for us,” he noted.

The electric blanket segment has been among those that have gotten a boost from broader consumer trends, in this case, energy usage concerns. Toaddress the other broader trend of natural products, Pillowtex has signed Soft-Tex to produce bamboo-fill pillows for its Royal Velvet brand, as well as foam-fill pillows for Charisma, a label it licenses to WestPoint Home.

Vendors are giving consumers the opportunity to try new, trendy products as they replace existing domestics, but getting consumers interested in truly new concepts can be tricky.

Finding new approaches to affordable luxury remains critical, and Springs Global has answered the challenge with Dream Zone, which meshes weave, finish, 500-thread count and 100% Egyptian cotton fiber to create the softest bedding possible for the price.

While natural fibers including cotton and, more recently, bamboo, have gotten a boost from consumer concerns about artificial materials, worries haven’t yet translated into a mass embrace of organic home fabrics. One challenge the current crop of organic materials faces is that they can’t be treated with the finishes typically used to soften bedding fibers, making the hand stiff and unacceptable to many consumers. Springs is expanding its application of softer bamboo fiber as it addresses the demand for more natural products, but is still testing where organics might fit in.

Promoting natural fiber isn’t the only way to create product that elicits the attention of older health-conscious replacement consumers and younger shoppers who have to address their own challenges as they set up households. Hollander Home Fashions has expanded its line of asthma-safe products to incorporate pillows and mattress pads with blankets on the drawing board. Technology in the service of health is a major Hollander initiative, and the company also is introducing products with varying fills to provide a variety of support profiles in support products designed to provide a better night’s sleep.

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