CEO Hugh Rovit’s goal is to make an already big company bigger By David Gill
Space has been much on the mind of Hugh Rovit since he joined Ellery HomeStyles last May.
By “space,” Rovit is not contemplating planets and galaxies. Now the company’s CEO, having succeeded Budd Goldman (now co-chairman) in December, he has been seeking to enlarge Ellery’s physical space—its showroom at 295 Fifth Ave.—along with the more metaphorical space the company occupies in the home textiles market.
Rovit’s mantra is, “Big plus big equals great.” To this end, the company has increased its showrooms at the Textiles Building from three to five spaces. Ellery’s total show space in the building now encompasses 25,000 square feet.
The company has also beefed up its executive team. In February, four key executives were brought on board: Robin Helfer, former chief financial officer of Topps, as chief operating officer; Sandy McNeil, a former executive with Hollander Home Fashions and Beacon Looms, as vice president of bedding; Ilona Nagy, a former CHF Industries executive, as vice president of e-commerce; and Greg Iaconis, a former executive with MeadWestvaco, as senior vice president-sales and marketing.
With a new infrastructure in place, Rovit is concentrating on the next aspects of making Ellery bigger. In an interview with HFN, the CEO said the company will focus on building itself into a larger consumer-packaged-goods manufacturer of home products. The above-mentioned hires, all executives with CPG company experience, are key steps in this process.
Obviously, size matters to Rovit. “I believe ‘big’ wins in this game,” Rovit said. “We need to be big to deal with the size and supply chains of our customers, all of whom are big in size and scale as well.” This is particularly necessary for Ellery, he added, given the fact that so many retailers are trying to rationalize their vendor bases.
Getting bigger for Ellery involves a strategy centered on “multis,” Rovit said. “We need to be multicategory, producing window treatments, bedding and throws,” he said. “We need to be multicountry, sourcing from the best suppliers no matter where they are and selling more internationally. We are also looking to be multilabel, offering products in our own brands, in licenses and in stores’ private labels. And we have to be multi-experienced. Our new hires speak to this, taking Ellery’s existing knowledge and importing people with experience in other CPG companies.”
In addition, becoming bigger at Ellery also means helping its customers get bigger. “Our job is to help our customers grow,” Rovit said. In particular, he is targeting his customers’ e-commerce operations. Ellery has now set up five-person teams, which include both merchandisers and marketers, dedicated to growing and supporting customers’ web businesses. Each team is responsible for assortment planning, brand management, online content development and advertising/marketing campaigns for customers’ e-commerce sectors.
Ellery is also looking to enlarge its presence in its product offerings. Window treatments remain what Rovit calls the “anchor” of the company’s line, but the company is making moves to become a bigger player in bedding. Along with the hiring of McNeil, it has constructed teams dedicated to bedding design, product-development support and sourcing support. It will begin to offer more master bedroom looks and multipiece sets. It has also enlarged its sourcing teams in China (from 36 to 40) and India/Pakistan (from 12 to 14). At last month’s New York Home Fashions Market, Ellery unveiled its dedicated bedding show space, which measures 8,000 square feet.
Along with growing in existing categories, Ellery is exploring entries into new soft-home product areas. “Bath intrigues us, and so does kitchen,” Rovit said. To get into these and other categories, Ellery could travel the acquisition route.
For potential acquisitions, the company has the backing of its part-owner, Trivest Partners, which recapitalized the business in 2011. Rovit described Trivest as “laser-focused on growth. If we decide on an acquisition, there will be no issues of capital constraints.”
Licensing will be another avenue for Ellery to grow. The company is already a licensee with Waverly in bedding but is seeking other possibilities there. Rovit said the company has also had proposals from other manufacturers for licensing its own brands, such as Eclipse and Vue in its window-treatment line.
When asked what he foresees for Ellery over the next five years, Rovit said the speed of change in business has made it difficult to plan that far ahead. “It’s hard to set goals because everything is changing so quickly,” he said. “You can already see the tightening of these five-year windows into 18 months.”
Because the business is moving ever faster, Ellery has concentrated on being nimble and flexible enough to take advantage of opportunities as they happen. “This gives us multiple avenues of growth which will help us build on our size and scale,” Rovit said. “The more people you’re important to, the more successful you’ll be.”