By David Gill
The slump that hit the U.S. econo-my brought the bedding-textiles industry to a standstill in 2007.
U.S. retail sales of all bedroom textiles finished at slightly more than $7.7 billion last year, virtually break-even with 2006. Looking further into the two major segments of the industry, decorative bedding and basic bedding, HFN’s research found that sales in these two categories also finished last year in a virtual dead heat with the prior year.
Combined sales of sheets and bagged bed ensembles were slightly more than $3.9 billion in 2007, compared with slightly less than $4 billion in 2006. Combined sales of basic-bedding products—bed pillows, mattress pads, and down and non-down comforters—totaled nearly $3.8 billion last year, almost exactly the same as in the previous year.
The lagging economy had an impact on consumer shopping behavior last year, as evidenced by comments from industry executives during February textiles market week. Queried about the shape of the industry, nearly all of them said that the retail climate was difficult, with their customers reporting lackluster store traffic, especially during the latter half of 2007.
Sheets and Bagged Bed Ensembles
A relatively strong sales performance in bagged bed ensembles was offset by a dismal year for sheet sales.
Ensembles, in fact, replicated their 2006 performance by registering another 5 percent sales-growth record for 2007. “Consumers continue to look for good value in these current market conditions,” said Carmen Waite, vice president of bedding merchandising for Springs Global, “and last year we saw bundled products help the bedding category do well. Promotional ensembles that included coordinating items such as window treatments, decorative pillows or Euro shams helped boost this category.”
No such help was available for sheets, whose sales plummeted by 3.5 percent.
As to this year, the outlook is for consumers to remain cautious early on, but to come back in the latter half of the year. “A lot of manufacturers are pulling back in 2008 and planning conservatively,” said Neil Cole, chairman and chief executive officer of Iconix, the parent company of the Cannon, Fieldcrest, Royal Velvet and Charisma brands. “But we believe the consumers will come back in the second half of the year. I think the worst will be over by then. We’ll have a new president elected and there will be more clarity in the market.”
The figures for the individual basic-bedding products were much in line with those figures HFN’s research uncovered in last year’s report—with the notable exception of bed pillows, whose sales growth fell from a strong 7 percent in 2006 to just 2.3 percent last year.
Last year began with the industry rolling on the momentum established in 2006, but then started braking to a halt as 2007 drew to a close.
“For the first three quarters, basic bedding sales in total were strong,” said Beth Mack, chief merchandising officer for Hollander Home Fashions. “Although the economy had slowed down, the housing market and [rising] gas prices were not reflected in total sales. Enter the fourth quarter, and consumer panic begins to set in.”
The onset of the fourth quarter and the holiday shopping season brought all of U.S. consumers’ biggest concerns to the surface. “Consumers were now worrying about potential foreclosures [on their homes], market crashes and recession,” Mack said, “and they were not investing any more into their home than could be afforded.
The figures on down comforters, for which sales dropped 5.7 percent last year, reflect what many executives in this market said regarding the escalating prices of down fill.
“The price of down was $11 per pound in 2001 and now stands at $20 per pound,” said Alan Kennedy, senior vice president, bath/basic bedding merchandising for WestPoint Home. Kennedy cited developments in China, the world’s largest producer of goose down fill. “When bird flu hit several years ago, farmers killed the geese that were close to the infected areas,” he said. “Then when that panic quieted down, they decided that Chinese consumers would prefer ducks to geese, further reducing the goose population. Then Chinese consumers showed a greater preference for down-filled apparel products, which means that more down went in that direction.”