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Quilt Manufacturer Odeja Looking at Turnaround (interview)

Škofja Loka, 03 December (STA) - Odeja, the Škofja Loka-based manufacturer of quilts, pillows and bed linen, is seeing an increase in sales for the first time after the crisis kicked in. Director Melita Rebič attributes the change in trend to multiple restructuring attempts and expansion to new markets, and believes in a turnaround.

The crisis battered the company hard, halving its sales. "We responded with cost cutting and efforts to increase revenue... We got reorganised several times, reduced the headcount and sought out new, cheaper input sources, although design and quality remain our priority," Rebič has told the STA in an interview.

At the same time, the company expanded to new markets, especially in the west, to make up for the falling sales in the region of the former Yugoslavia, whose share in Odeja's exports slumped from 70% to 25%. The company generates half of its sales abroad.

Odeja made a loss of EUR 580,000 on EUR 3.8m in sales revenue last year. But Rebič says that it managed to turn the corner in May so that sales in the second half of the year show growth compared with the same period last year.

Talking about prosperous new deals and markets, Rebič mentions cooperation with European Sleep Works in the US market and a buyer in Hungary, as well as Austria and Germany as markets that offer the company prospects for further growth. "We are looking for new markets, deals and opportunities all the time."

Aside from nine own retail shops and franchises in Croatia's Zagreb and Serbia's Novi Sad, Odeja also operates two Homely shops with linen maker Svilanit. It also supplies a special line of products for the Danish retail chain JYSK.

Even though it also offers lower-end products it its shops, it is not the price which Rebič cites as Odeja's competitive advantage, but rather quality, design and flexibility, especially in comparison to large Chinese companies. "Want a round quilt? You can get it from us. Our range is broad indeed."

This year the company also launched a Medical line of products designed especially for those suffering from asthma and various allergies, aside from products from natural materials such as camel hair, wool or cotton. "We are constantly looking to offer something new, something different," Rebič says.

Odeja currently employs 97 staff in Slovenia and plans to keep its production here running because "this is the only way for us to preserve the well-recognised Odeja quality, flexibility and good service for the buyers", according to Rebič. Production facilities are currently running at 100% capacity.

Financing remains a problem, especially as the company would like to invest EUR 400,000 in upgrading its production facilities, but Rebič says that the measures taken by the government so far have not yet improved liquidity.

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