14716 Thu, 06/19/2008 - 3:05pm
By David Gill
BOCA RATON, Fla.–Hollander Home Fashions’ NextLife bed-pillow program has been at retail since February—and now Hollander is discussing possible product extensions that it could unveil during September’s home textiles market in New York.
The NextLife pillow, the result of a license arrangement between Hollander and recycled products-manufacturer NextLife, contains fibers produced from recycled plastic bottles, and is covered with non-dyed, non-bleached cotton fabrics ranging from 200 to 400 thread-count. It’s priced to retail for $5 for a standard pillow, and is currently an exclusive with a major mass merchant, according to Beth Mack, Hollander’s chief merchandising officer.
Jeff Hollander, chief executive officer for Hollander, and Lonnie Chenkin, president and chief operating officer for NextLife, the relatively new company that developed the recycling process for the pillow, said the program is now on course for expansion to include comforters and mattress pads. Regarding NextLife, the company is looking into licensing partnership with manufacturers of other products, home furnishings included.
NextLife is a sister company of Mountain Valley Recycling, which accumulates waste from retailers, mostly plastic hangers, and recycles them into highly refined resins. It then uses these materials to develop consumer products. Founded in 2003, Mountain Valley Recycling reached an exclusive, four-year contract with a major mass-merchant chain two years ago to recycle the entire chain’s plastic film waste and 75 percent of the retailers’ plastic hangers, according to a company statement.
NextLife was formed by the Mountain Valley Recycling’s principles in early 2007 to make products from these recycled materials. Other parts of NextLife’s mission, Chenkin said, include educating retailers on recycling, helping them to set up recycling initiatives, and helping them to buy the right equipment for recycling.
NextLife employs a concept defined on its Web site as “closed-loop” recycling. In this, otherwise disposable materials such as the plastics from bottles are converted into new products through a coordinated effort involving product designers, manufacturers and recycling plants.
“We control the life cycle of these products from the sourcing through the design, and through the manufacturing and the packaging, to bring these products to retail shelves,” Chenkin said.
The Hollander program is the first home furnishings effort for NextLife, and it emerged naturally from relationships the company already had. One of NextLife’s managing partners is Laser Partners, a private-equity company based here, one of whose general partners is Jeff Hollander.
“They first talked to me about the pillow about a year and a half ago,” Hollander said in an interview with HFN. “We recognized that plastic bottles were one area where we could promote reusability. We also recognized that we wanted to get the word out to consumers that you can get a ‘next life’ out of bottles through pillows.”
“Jeff has been invaluable in helping us in a number of ways,” Chenkin said. “He has core competencies including retail contacts and merchandising expertise. Hollander (Home Fashions) is an eco-centric company. It’s been ahead of the curve in bringing green products to market.”
Hollander first displayed the NextLife pillow at last August’s New York Home Textiles Market. The product began shipping this past January.
Each of the pillows contains fibers made from 30 plastic bottles per pound. As Chenkin described the process, the bottles are extruded and melted down into fiberfill. The pillow covers are made with 100 percent natural cotton fabric.
Explaining the $5 retail price point, Hollander said, “One of the big goals we had was, could we come up with the right product from the right materials, and do this where the consumer doesn’t have to pay a premium? We found that consumers don’t want to pay more for such a product, but want to be assured that it’s environmentally sustainable.”
Regarding its future plans, NextLife is in the process of forming a team consisting of designers, merchandisers and scientists to develop other products. “We’re selling intellectual capital,” Chenkin said. “We’re also selling the fact that nobody else in the market is doing what we’re doing, creating innovative and eco-friendly products.”
NextLife has also begun discussions with other manufacturers in home products. “Our strategies are both licensing our name and manufacturing products ourselves,” Chenkin said. “We’re looking at brands that are not into sustainable products now, and to produce sustainable products for them. I feel confident that we will have one or more collections of NextLife products in 2009.”
Hollander added that the company is looking to extend the retail distribution of this program beyond its current exclusive arrangement with the mass merchant. Specialty stores are one possible channel for the program, he said.