Canopy sheets egyptian cotton

Wal-Mart pulls some Welspun sheets after cotton controversy

Dive Brief:

  • Wal-Mart Stores Inc. issued a notice to customers who had bought products manufactured by Indian textile company Welspun Global Brands and marketed as “100% Egyptian cotton” because they may contain non-Egyptian cotton fibers.

  • The notice on Wal-Mart’s website indicates the recall is limited to “Better Homes and Gardens” brand and Canopy brand 400-thread-count damask stripe sheet sets and pillow cases. “Welspun has not been able to assure us the products are 100% Egyptian cotton, which is unacceptable,” Wal-Mart spokesperson Marilee McInnis told the Wall Street Journal.

  • Wal-Mart told news outlets that it’s not severing its relationship with Welspun. Rival Target cut ties with Welspun last month after discovering some products don’t contain Egyptian cotton as labeled, prompting Wal-Mart, Bed Bath & Beyond and other retailers to take stock of the authenticity of Welspun products.

Dive Insight:

This cotton debacle has hit Welspun’s fortunes hard, and left its retail customers scrambling to reveal the problem and compensate customers who bought the mislabeled sheets involved. But it’s not quite that easy, considering Welspun’s apparent lack of knowledge on the matter.

The issue pinpoints the complexities of today’s global supply chain, as well as the hardships that can come from several retailers depending on one major supplier for comparable goods. Welspun shares have tumbled hard since Target pulled some $90 million worth of business with the supplier, and the retailer later said it might work with rival Indian textile supplier Trident.

In a conference call with investors last month, Welspun Managing Director Rajesh Mandawewala said the company took responsibility for the problem, which he said was rooted in the origins of the fiber. “The product themselves were rated highly by the end consumers,” he said. “In the manufacturing process, we source a lot of materials, raw materials at the intermediary stage as well from various vendors, be it cotton, cotton yarn or greige fabric. We thus want to revalidate all our supply processes and systems. Although growing volumes and programs have resulted in increasing complexity, an issue of this nature is unacceptable to us.”

It’s an astounding admission, one that shows that most U.S. retailers, too, likely have little idea about the source of the raw materials of their goods. That could become a growing issue in an era when many consumers are demanding sustainable manufacture of products. But the problem is complicated by customer demand of premium products at discount prices. Textiles made from Egyptian cotton are normally quite expensive, prized for their softness, and not likely to be found on discount shelves.

There’s quite a bit of wiggle room in the meaning of the phrase “Egyptian cotton.” The Cotton Egypt Association, which licenses the trademark and certifies suppliers, estimates that some 90% of products labeled “Egyptian cotton” are inauthentic. The phrase is a marketing term that doesn’t actually denote a type of cotton, but that fibers were grown in Egypt. Still, “Egyptian cotton” has become shorthand of sorts for “luxury” and “quality” without regard to the fact that some consumers find other types at various prices and with various textures preferable.

After investigation, Walmart joins Target in pulling Egyptian cotton sheets

AP Walmart is no longer selling Welspun’s line of premium Egyptian cotton bed sheets after its supplier was unable to prove the sheets weren’t knockoffs.

Less than a month after Target announced it would offer refunds for customers who purchased Welspun’s Egyptian cotton sheets, Walmart said it is also pulling Egyptian cotton Welspun sheets from its shelves and offering refunds, reports Bloomberg.

“Our customers trust us to provide products that are what they say they are on the label,” Walmart spokesperson Marilee McInnis said in an e-mail on Friday. “Welspun has not been able to assure us the products are 100 percent Egyptian cotton, which is unacceptable. While the sheets are excellent quality, we are offering our customers a full refund.”

Any customer seeking a refund can bring their Welspun 100% Egyptian-cotton sheets into a Walmart location to receive a refund. Walmart sold 100% Egyptian cotton bedsheets under the Better Homes & Gardens and Canopy brands.

The unsold Egyptian-cotton sheets that are being pull from shelves will be given to Good360, a non-profit that donates companies’ excess merchandise to charities.

Target’s announcement has set of a series of investigations into Egyptian cotton bed sheets. Target

J.C. Penny and Bed Bath & Beyond are also investigating the credibility of their Welspun Egyptian cotton products.

Walmart’s news adds credence to the theory that a large percentage of Egyptian cotton sold in the US is fake.

While high-quality cotton can be grown around the world, cotton must be grown in Egypt in order to be considered real Egyptian cotton.

“When you think about it, 1% of the world’s crops are Egyptian cotton. You walk into any store, or look at any one of these websites and see they’re all selling Egyptian cotton — it just doesn’t add up,” Scott Tannen, founder of luxury bedding startup Boll and Branch, told Business Insider in August. “I think just at the tip of the iceberg.”

While Tannen has an interest in exposing fake Egyptian cotton, he isn’t the only one suspicious of the industry.

Earlier this year, the Cotton Egypt Association found that 90% of “Egyptian cotton” sold by retailers tested using a DNA-based authentication program did not contain any cotton produced in Egypt. The association at the time held up Welspun as a symbol of success — something that has clearly since been called into question.