'03 is B-blanket bummer
By Cecile B. Corral -- Home Textiles Today, 8/11/2003 12:00:00 AM
NEW YORK —
For the beach towel category, the summer of 2003 was all wet — literally.
Unusually cold and rainy weather throughout the nation rendered this one of the weakest summer selling seasons ever — with retail sales off from 8 to 10 percent in the approximately $135 million beach towel category.
"Right into June it was ice cold in New York, like the 40s," said Kurt Hamburger, president and managing director, New York-based Cobra Trading. "It only started to open up at end of June. But then, as tradition would have it, retailers started their markdowns on July 4."
Added Michele Sinai, president, New York-based Michele Sinai Inc.: "For some stores, when summer finally got off the ground, and beach with it, many retailers were already on sale. Of course, that's not good for the margins."
As HTT found during a round of store visits in Miami — where presumably the season should be relatively extended — by the final week of July retailers were already slashing price points and moving leftover inventory into out-of-the-way displays.
Target's abundant surplus was stashed haphazardly on back-of-store end-caps labeled "clearance." Specialty chains Linens 'n Things and Bed Bath and Beyond maintained orderly displays but showed beach low-traffic areas. JCPenney placed its last couple dozen beach towels on a table behind two bedding collection displays. Burdines jammed up aisle space in the bath towel section with three free-standing shelves overstocked with brand-name varieties.
That this year's inventories are still groaning with unsold merchandise raises questions about the spillover effect on next year's season, suppliers said.
"Will buyers take larger mark-downs on this year's goods, or will they pack and hold it until next year, which will hurt sales for imports next year?" asked Dan Harris, vp of marketing and product development, Revere Mills, Niles, IL.
Suppliers are working to find solutions to extend the segment's seasonality.
Hilasal, a division of Brumlow Home, just completed its orders for fourth quarter beach towel shipments. It's the first time the company has created a special holiday line, which is composed of beach-themed towels wrapped in holiday-theme metal cans that double as coin banks.
"It's part of our effort to merchandise differently," said Gary Kirsch, vp, sales. "Beach towels are a good seasonal business, but maybe for more than one season. They make great Christmas gifts, too."
Agreeing, Salo Grosfeld, president, Miami-based J.R. United Industries noted snowbirds who spend vacation time in warmer climates and need beach towels for those trips. "There is no reason why retailers can't have a bath sheet/beach towel presentation all year round," he said. "The two go hand in hand."
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