Newcomer Softline lets brothers thrive together
Joan Gunin -- Furniture Today, January 12, 2004
Relative newcomer to the New York market scene, Softline Home Fashions, is gearing up its product offerings for its second showing this spring. The three-year-old firm will be unveiling 20 new designs in faux silk, a suede line for all categories and 50 skus of taffetas, including crushed, embroidered, pintucked, iridescent and plain.
Softline was founded three years ago when Montreal-born brothers Jason and Rodney Carr, who were working at the time for a family-owned curtain company based in Los Angeles, decided to start their own firm. Their base: 14 and a half years of combined experience in the home textiles business.
The company's product mix — namely curtains, quilts, shams and dec pillows — targets consumers age 30 to fiftysomething with young and chic looks. The supplier features numerous country florals in soft hues with delicate embellishments, loft-like contemporary designs in brighter colorways, classic styles and juvenile patterns for the kids or grandkids. Its oversize quilts are constructed of 100 percent cotton or linen, are reversible, heavily stitched, and weigh from 280 to 360 grams.
"We develop and source items that we would want to have in our own homes," explained Jason. The company has been doing heavy sourcing out of China, Turkey, the Pacific Rim and South America. It supplies products to small independent retail stores, catalog companies, mass merchants, larger chain stores, the hospitality market (i.e. event planners and mid-tier hotels) and gift shops/boutiques.
Currently, Softline has a staff of 21, including eight at a small cut-and-sew factory that works on ready-made products for catalogs. In addition, Softline has 14 sales reps who meet with U.S. clients plus two who cover Canada. The brothers believe their 28,000-square-foot facility will get too small for the company before long, and will probably require a move into an 80,000 to 100,000-square-foot facility in the foreseeable future.
"Rodney and I both wanted to work together, and realized that there were more opportunities for us in Los Angeles, where I was living, so Rodney relocated from Toronto," explained Jason.
Rodney said, "Basically we're go-getters who were born aggressive from birth. We have always been involved in business and marketing. I remember selling cookies door to door when I was 12. I think that our customers recognize our passion, dedication and professionalism."
Last year the Carr brothers attended 36 trade shows, primarily gift and accessory markets as well as fabric conferences. "We try to make as many appointments as possible with retailers at these events," said Rodney. "We find that the gift shows market our company with more regional retailers, as well as work, to increase our sales. Now that we've done the circuit a few times, retailers are starting to know who we are and the style of products we provide."
Each time the brothers attend a show, they said, it encourages them to develop new products to display at the event, so their lines are constantly evolving.
"What makes our company different is that Rodney and I complement each other," said Jason. "Rodney is very outgoing and gets our customers enthused about new products, while I am the person behind the desk taking care of the day-to-day business."
The partners' objectives reflect an ambitious spirit. "We're always looking for new trends and want to get it out there first," said Jason.
Softline wants to become a leader in design and styling, stay aggressive in product development, increase its importance to existing customers and offer products that retailers haven't seen, added the brothers.
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