14818 Mon, 07/07/2008 - 12:42pm
By David Gill
NEW YORK–With a reconfigured Office of the President, Croscill is looking ahead to a challenging period in its history.
The company has placed Carl Legreca, who now carries the title president of Croscill Inc., in charge of all three of its product divisions. He retains his previous responsibility as head of the bath-products division, and this move puts him over both the bedding and window-products divisions as well.
Doug Kahn, chief executive officer, and Tony Cassella, chief financial officer and chief operating officer, remain the other occupants of the Office of the President.
Legreca reports to Kahn. His elevation came about after Julie Brady, president of the bedding division, resigned in May.
Kahn said Legreca is now chief merchandising officer for all three of Croscill’s product categories. Reporting to him are Jack Mann, vice president and product manager of window treatments; and Michelle LaRovere, vice president and product manager of bedding. Pegeen Cooper has recently been named vice president and product manager for the bath division, and Lydia Irwin has just been appointed vice president and director of design for all three product areas. Both Cooper and Irwin will also report to Legreca.
Thus, the executive for Croscill has been put in place to face what Kahn, in an interview with HFN, described as “the worst environment that we’ve seen in our careers. So many factors have hit the business as a whole. It really has been the perfect storm for everybody.”
In spite of this grim view of the present, Kahn is optimistic about the future and believes that it will improve not too far down the road. “There will be pent-up demand for our products when things begin to get better, in the next six to 12 months,” he said.
The most sensible strategy going forward, according to both Kahn and Legreca, is to boost the prominence of the Croscill brand. “Our goal is to become an internationally recognized brand noted for quality and details,” Legreca said. “We want to be a trend setter at the higher end of the retailer’s assortment.”
Kahn also observed that Croscill has provided private-label products to a number of retailers to broaden its business. “But it’s no use to us to be known as a private-label supplier,” he said. “We think we have an opportunity to grow in the international front. Our research shows that people all over the world know the Croscill name, many of them from traveling to the U.S. and shopping here. Licensing the Croscill name is another opportunity, too.”
In terms of the individual product categories, Kahn admitted that the weakest area of the business is bedding. “Over the last three to four years, the decline in bedding overall has been worse than in window and bath,” he said. “Bedding is a huge deflationary environment at this time, with the category getting beat up on price. We think alternative bedding (which he defined as quilts, coverlets and duvet covers) is an opportunity, and we’re also going to present our take on multipiece bed sets, which will have elements of value and convenience for consumers.” These items will be introduced at the September showroom market, he added.
As part of this strategy, Legreca said the company would try to elevate the Croscill White Label brand in upper-end specialty retailers. “My thinking is that retailing [among the larger chains] is getting really boring with all of the consolidations,” he said. The White Label product line “will encourage smaller stores to offer fresher product.” At the same time, Legreca added, “We need great-looking stuff for the mass market.”
A major retail chain in that mass market, J.C. Penney, remains a key piece of the customer pie for Croscill. “They’re number two [in home-textiles retailing] to Wal-Mart, and we support them in private label,” Kahn said. “Their window business [with us] remains very strong.”
For J.C. Penney and all of the company’s other customers, the solution to this challenging economy lies in Croscill doing what it has always done, Kahn said. “If we design great, trend-right product, retailers will do business with us,” he said. “We’ve always found our way to the front of the pack on design trends, and I’m confident that we can continue to do that going forward, with J.C. Penney and everybody.”
Denying the persistent rumors that the Kahn family is looking to sell the company, Kahn said, “We’ve been committed to this business for three generations, and I intend to keep it that way.” He added that acquisitions are a possibility, but “our clear strategic map calls for internal growth. I was comfortable with doing a strategic acquisition, but today the multiples are tough. We never say never [to an acquisition], but we’ll do it only if it makes sense.”