15493 Fri, 10/24/2008 - 3:17pm
By Allison Zisko
Bold colorways, more intricate weaves and organic offerings are helping to drive sales of kitchen dish towels, the workhorse of the kitchen and the top-selling SKU in the kitchen-textiles category.
Business grew slightly in 2007, according to HFN statistics, to roughly $562 million annually. Kitchen-textiles sales, vendors say, are driven by innovation in design and—as Judi Alexander, vice president of licensing and marketing for Town & Country Living, said—“creativity, fabrication and embellishment.”
Staying current with the colors consumers want to use in their kitchen is equally important, Alexander said—an idea echoed by Garry Schermann, director of sales for Tag, which marries many of its kitchen textiles to its tabletop products. “Our retailers are asking for coordinates that match larger lifestyle themes,” Schermann said.
Peking Handicraft also takes the lifestyle approach in designing its kitchen textiles and linens. “Casual dining is more and more important,” said Carol Antone, creative director. “We’re putting more effort into that, the everyday luxuries.”
Bright colors and bold patterns are necessary in a down market, according to Antone. “People need happy colors right now,” she said. They also need a compelling reason to buy. “If people are going to spend money, it better be a fun color or have detail. It’s gotta be special,” she said.
Some of the key colors right now include purple, in all its shades and variations, and red. Designs have become more sophisticated—“even chefs [as a decorative element] are looking more sophisticated,” Alexander said—and upscale. Some vendors said that flatwovens, once sold primarily to upscale, specialty independent retailers, have become more mainstream.
Earth-friendly products, the constant buzzword in virtually every industry, are important in kitchen textiles. Certified organic-cotton kitchen textiles are in demand, vendors said. “Although they are more expensive, consumers are asking for them. There is a marketplace for them,” Schermann said.
Town & Country unveiled Organic Kitchen at last month’s New York Home Fashions Market Week. Made from certified organic cotton, the line includes potholders, oven mitts, kitchen towels, aprons and dishcloths, in six colors and in terry and flatwoven options. It is available for wide distribution. Bardwil Linens included bamboo towels in its new Kitchen Drygoods collection, a line of basics in nine solid colors. April Cornell, a division of Now Designs, makes all of its kitchen textiles from cotton, and has introduced jute table linens into the mix.
On the other hand, Peking Handicraft’s Antone believes that organic constructions are less important than eco-friendly packaging, which avoids plastic.
A strong name can also help sell kitchen textiles. Town & Country, which has executed the KitchenAid license in kitchen textiles for several years, introduced the Royal Velvet collection at the textiles show. The full line is offered in seven colors, which take their inspiration from the bath-towel palette with a mind to the kitchen. The collection corresponds to other recently introduced Royal Velvet licensed goods and “reflects the Royal Velvet affordable luxury lifestyle,” Alexander said.