Biltmore gives blanket execs new life
By Don Hogsett -- Home Textiles Today, 10/11/2002 12:00:00 AM
ASHEVILLE, NC —
Rising like a phoenix, a team of 30-year veterans of the blanket business — Tedd Smith, John Hill and Tom Gibbs — has formed Biltmore Blanket Co., a new full-service blanket resource marketing a wide range of product produced in China by Biltmore's majority owner, Pac-Fung International.
Staging a fast comeback after the earlier collapse of Beacon Blankets, the trio of blanket veterans has regrouped with fresh financing and a new international partner and will be showing off its debut line this week at the Hotel Avalon, 16 East 32nd St in New York.
"We've got a broad range of product, every quality and every price point; and we're ready to ship," said Tedd Smith, an operating partner in Biltmore. In his long career in the American blanket business, Smith has at various times worked at Beacon Mfg., Pillowtex Corp., Charles D. Owen Mfg. and most recently Beacon Blanket Co.
Launching Biltmore, his second blanket venture in as many years, Smith is working with international textiles magnate Hamen Fan, chairman and ceo of Pac-Fung International of Hong Kong, a major supplier to the U.S. market of comforter shells and duvet covers, feather and down products, sheets — and now blankets, through its majority stake in Biltmore. Pac-Fung is the Hong Kong-based parent of two U.S. subsidiaries, Pac-Fung Feather Company and Prestige Home Textiles, which is based in Los Angeles and markets a line of high-count sheets in cotton and cotton sateen.
"Currently, we're sourcing all of the blanket product in China, and Hamen is in the process of building a brand-new, state-of-the-art blanket mill in China," said John Hill, another industry veteran and Biltmore operating partner.
Setting up shop as a one-stop resource, Biltmore will be "tightly focused on blankets in four key categories," Smith told HTT, targeting traditional retail, institutional and premium channels of distribution. "We're going to stick with the horses we've been riding for the past 30 years."
The four key product areas Biltmore is focusing on at this week's market include:
Automated blankets using a patented new technology;
A full range of cotton blankets at virtually all price points;
Flocked blankets, to compete with WestPoint Stevens' high-profile, highly popular Vellux product;
A line of promotional, non-woven blankets.
"By the end of this month we'll have more than 100,000 units of cottons and promotional blankets in inventory and ready to ship," said Smith. Automatic land flocked blankets are planned for 2003, "but we can have them ready for January, or even December," said Smith. "We're prepared to have that conversation."
Blanket product will be housed on both coasts, said Smith, at a North Carolina distribution center in the works now and at a California warehouse shared with Prestige Home Textiles, a sister company under the Pac-Fung banner.
The automatic blanket, said Smith, will be produced in China by Bilt-safe, and marketed in the United States by Biltmore. "The automatic product will be similar to what's in the U.S. market, and we'll be able to hit every price point out there. We won't have to shy away from any price point."
The flocked product, he said, will take aim at a market cornered for years by WestPoint Stevens with its Vellux product. "We'll have the product in two styles," said Smith. "One will be a pretty traditional flocked product, the kind everyone is familiar with, and the other will be a flocked product reversing to a polyester fleece. That's going to put a pretty interesting spin on it."
In cottons, said John Hill, "We have all the bases covered. We'll be showing five cottons at market this week, and then we'll also be showing more than 20 different styles ready to go to the looms and more than 40 colors." Cottons, said Smith, will target retails from $9.99 to $39.99 for the twin size.
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