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Bedding goes way of organics, naturally

BY CSA STAFF

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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Seasonal categories aid Family Dollar sales

BY CSA STAFF

MATTHEWS, N.C. Family Dollar Stores reported that net sales for the four weeks ended Sept. 1 increased 3.4% to approximately $494.4 million from $478.3 million for the comparable four-week period ended Sept. 2, 2006. According to the company, the sales increase was aided by strong performance in the food and seasonal categories, primarily toys and lawn and garden, while sales of apparel were softer. Comparable-store sales for the four-week period increased 1% when compared with sales for the similar four-week period last year.

Sales for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2007 ended Sept. 1, were approximately $1.63 billion, or 3.4% above sales of approximately $1.58 billion for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2006 ended August 26, 2006. For the year ended Sept. 1, sales were approximately $6.8 billion, or 6.9% above sales of approximately $6.4 billion for the year ended Aug. 26, 2006.

The company reported that it anticipates earnings per diluted share for the fourth quarter to be in the range of 24 cents to 27 cents compared with 21 cents per diluted share for the fourth quarter last year. For the full year, the company currently expects net income per diluted share to be between $1.60 and $1.63 compared with $1.26 per diluted share for the prior fiscal year.

 

The company expects that comparable-store sales for the September period ending Oct. 6, will increase 1% to 3%.

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Burlington Coat Factory 1Q sales up 2.6%

BY CSA STAFF

BURLINGTON, N.J. Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse announced today that net sales from continuing operations for the first quarter ended Sept. 1 were $673.9 million compared with $656.8 million for the first quarter ended Sept. 2, 2006, a 2.6% increase. These results reflect a 2% comparable-store sales decrease for the quarter. June comparable-store sales decreased 2.1%, July comparable-store sales decreased 3.7% and August comparable-store sales decreased 0.6%, compared with the same periods last year.

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