17123 Thu, 10/08/2009 - 4:19pm
By David Gill
India-based Trident Group marked its 10th anniversary in the towel business at last month’s New York Home Fashions Market with a new, high-profile licensed program with Southern Living magazine.
Trident first entered the market when textiles was still dominated, in this country especially, by the major mills. This year, however, Trident’s U.S. towel sales should reach $155 million, according to P.K. Markanday, business head of the U.S. sales and marketing division. In a recent interview with HFN, Markanday also said Trident is now one of the four largest towel manufacturers in the world in terms of capacity, market reach and customer base.
According to Markanday, Trident has a loftier goal in mind for its business. “Our vision is to be the most preferred towel resource in the world,” he said. “We continue to grow in terms of size, competitiveness, quality and customer relationships. We now have a capacity to manufacture 13.5 million pieces a month.”
Trident carries out its towel business under its Abhishek Industries unit. Founded in 1984, the company launched its towel line in 1999. “The U.S. is our largest market,” Markanday said. “We are also present in the entire European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the Middle East, South Africa, Latin America and Canada.” The textiles segment, which also includes yarn, now accounts for nearly 75 percent of its total sales; other business units include paper, chemicals and energy.
The keys to Trident’s growth, according to Markanday, are the company’s investment in both customer service and product quality. “We have always put the customer first,” he said. “Whenever we think of a strategy or action plan, we think of what makes things better for our customers.”
The commitment to customer service is especially important to Trident, considering that more than 90 percent of its product offerings are private label. “All retailers are focused on private label, so with this our service has to be better,” Markanday said. “The store becomes the brand, and the stores have become better at the quality and value equation. There is a greater acceptance by consumers of private-label products, and that they come with a better level of customer service.”
Thanks to this commitment, Trident towels can now be found in some of the nation’s most prominent retailers, including the major discount chains, some of the largest department stores and in major specialty stores and warehouse clubs.
The towels include those made from Egyptian cotton and supima cotton. Trident also blends in fibers such as rayon, bamboo, ramie, linen, silk, soya fibers and hemp.
To make these towels, Trident has put plenty of resources into its manufacturing. “We strongly believe that quality is a product of technology,” Markanday said. “We have invested heavily in spinning machinery and color-dispensing systems whereby you make a color recipe on a computer, and that provides a very consistent color. We continuously work on improving the bulkiness, which improves the absorbency of the towel. In stitching, we’ve moved almost entirely to automation, which has improved consistency.”
The commitment Trident has shown impressed Southern Living magazine to the point where Trident has become the magazine’s official licensee for towels. Debuting at the September market were three towel ranges: Morningside, a basic made from premium low-twist yarns for softness; Abington Hill, consisting of 100 percent supima cotton made more absorbent and soft through air-rich technology; and Highland Park, the top-of-the-line grouping made from extra long-staple, three-ply, zero-twist yarn. Highland Park also features silver yarns, which provide anti-odor and anti-static properties for the life of the towel.
Trident is bent on growing in this market despite the troubles now being experienced by the U.S. retail economy. “We are concerned about the retailers that have gone out of business, but we still feel we can grow if we have the capacity and capability to grow in our existing customer base,” Markanday said.
The narrowing of the U.S. retail universe does not mean that Trident can’t grow into new channels, either. “We also see opportunities in mid-sized retailers, where we haven’t penetrated yet, and we also see opportunities with upper-end retailers,” Markanday said. “We have to learn how to handle smaller-size orders and service this customer base. We will need warehousing to handle the quantities we desire, and work to replenish very quickly.”
Even with these obstacles, however, Markanday still believes that Trident can double its sales over the next three years. To achieve that goal, “we will have to rely even more on technology that will give us cost competitiveness,” he said.