Momentum Launches and 'LS Direct' Division

August 2, 2000

Las Vegas, Nev. (USA) - In an effort to make its collections more accessible to designers, the distributor of hospitality fabrics, Momentum Textiles has established a Website. allows customers to ''view fabric selections in a fraction of the time that it would take you to pour over shelves of voluminous stackbooks,'' according to the greeting message. Momentum Textiles president John Wilkinson said that 90 percent of the company's SKUs are available for online browsing.

''The real heart of it at this point,'' said Momentum Textiles information sytems manager Candy Koogler, ''is the product search and the ability to be able to order memo samples online. We created our website to be an online textiles library. Customers can give certain criteria and search our database and get thumbnails. It took us a long way to classify our products to get the search engine to work in a way that is helpful to designers.''

Wilkinson said that the search engine makes Momentum's site unique among textile Websites. ''Say I want a blue fabric, or maybe I want a geometric pattern - you can search using these characteristics,'' he said. ''You could choose organic, random or floral. You can enter pattern scale, i.e., large, medium or small. You can put in specs like 50,000 double rubs.'' Wilkinson said that cyberbrowsers can also peruse Momentum's offerings by price. Once the choice is made, customers can check the inventory level, too.

One of the biggest hurdles for Momentum in creating an online vehicle for sharing its offerings was getting the colors to appear right. From Koogler's account, it's nearly a no-win situation. ''Colors are really difficult to classify objectively bc it's such a subjective thing. Monitors by their nature don't reproduce color accurately. We know there's no way we can show - even with a good image - an exact replication of our product.''

Koogler said that the company looked for ways to circumvent troublesome variables like this one that they couldn't control. ''We've used common color names and the Munsell color classification, which is widely used with textile mills for defining and talking about colors. We're also trying to provide some technical color information on the website so that designers can have a good idea without seeing memo samples - which they can order online - whether they really want to order the memo.''

In January '99, Momentum also purchased a company in High Point, N.C., called dCube, to do digital imaging and digital sampling for the Website. dCube: a separate division which does digital sampling, digital imaging.

The site also contains a company profile, product information including a price list, job openings, and the company's environmental policy. Koogler said feedback on the site would dictate when or whether the company would add more capabilities. Wilkinson said Momentum plans to officially unveil the Website at the NeoCon exhibition in Chicago (12-14 June).

All the defining and redefining of products required to build a useful search engine online have yielded a new Momentum marketing tool for the physical world. Momentum has developed a new binder system in which its 3,000 removable samples are listed by price.

Wilkinson said the turnover of the Momentum group, which includes five brands - Momentum, Textus, Loomsource, LS Direct, d-cube - was between $40-$47 million. He said that more than 70 percent of sales were to U.S. customers.

The LS Direct division of Momentum was started in March and functions expressly to accommodate demand from its approximately 250 hospitality furniture manufacturers. Through LS Direct, customers can place orders for both large quantities and piece goods. ''It's directed at hotel designers,'' Wilkinson said. ''Through it, we provide high-ware product with a good look and sell it typically in full rolls, at prices under $15 a yard.''

''LS Direct is what we're using to provide manufacturers with the same type of service and pricing that they'd get from a mill-direct program,'' said Koogler, ''but they can get a lot larger selection from us. Mill-direct tends to be very limited.''

While the division is in its infancy, it was conceived of years ago, according to Wilkinson. ''We started designing fabric for it two or three years ago,'' he said. ''Then it was part of Loomsource. But as placements with furniture manufacturers have grown, it became a separate entity.'' (Wilkinson said that offerings from this brand aren't displayed on the Website because it's target market is so niche.)

LS Direct also helps Momentum shoulder a lighter warehousing burden. ''It cuts down greatly on the stocking,'' said Loomsource purchasing agent Cindy Rogers-Heath. ''We don't have to warehouse it, bc the customer orders from us and then we order from the mill.''

The Momentum brand itself sells to three contract segments: the corporate, hospitality and healthcare sectors. Wilkinson said that this division has been working on a steady flow of projects recently. ''The project business has been good,'' he said. ''We've been doing lots of medium to large projects with major hotel chains like the Hilton, Sheraton and Holiday Inn. We've also done a lot of work with Circus Circus.''

Other Momentum projects include the American restaurant chain Denny's to whom Momentum is a longtime supplier of vinyls and printed Crypton. Late last year, Momentum supplied sofa fabrics for the 700-room Holiday Inn World Gate hotel. Wilkinson said that Momentum also works often with Merryl Lynch.

Textus offers high-end corporate products and focuses especially on sales to Fortune 500 companies. When Momentum purchased Textus in October '98 it took over operational duties but left the company to retain the rest of its functions, namely product development. Hazel Siegel, a name that rings bells in design circles is Textus' design director. ''She is the most award-winning fabric designer in the history of the world,'' Koogler said. ''She was recently given an award - a sort of lifetime achievement award - for having won the most awards. Textile design is her life.'' Koogler said that Siegel also does some textile design for Momentum.

Meanwhile, Loomsource (from which LS Direct sprung) is an older Momentum division that distributes low-end seating upholstery fabrics for hospitality markets, especially guest rooms.

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