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The Rupp Report: In Search Of New Business

Jürg Rupp, Executive Editor

In times of rough global market conditions, everybody is looking for new business opportunities. Sustainable production, which reflects an increased environmental consciousness among the population, seems to be one of the promising niche markets.

Over the last 18 months, Textile World , in its magazines as well in the Rupp Report, has published several reports about a new attitude in the global textile industry. Even the top managers of global companies are taking note of this fact. "Organic cotton" and the "carbon footprint" are just two key terms.

Pilot Market: Switzerland
For many decades, Switzerland has been considered an ideal pilot market for new products. It wasn't a surprise when Coop, one of the two big retail stores in Switzerland, started its Coop Naturaline apparel line in 1993. This range represents ecologically and fairly produced textiles and body products based on renewable recourses. In 1995, the production of textiles was changed to use 100-percent organic cotton. And the development of the business is very promising. In 2007, the turnover was more than 50 million Swiss francs, and 2008 saw another increase of 5.5 percent. Don't forget, there are only some 7 million Swiss people. One may object and cite the old fairy tale that Switzerland is very rich and the Swiss can afford to buy these products. Below is another success story from Great Britain, which doesn't mean that Great Britain is a poor kingdom....

Organic Textiles
The British Soil Association is predicting the sales value of organic textiles and clothing in Great Britain could nearly triple to 280 million pounds sterling in 2012 from sales of 100 million pounds last year. In its annual Organic Market Report, The Soil Association says sales of organic products are a fast-growing segment of the 30 billion-pound clothing and textiles market, exceeding 100 million pounds in 2008 for the first time.

The report estimates organic cotton sales of 60 million to 65 million pounds in 2007, and 85 million to 90 million pounds in 2008. This is an annual growth rate of around 40 percent. If other natural fibers such as wool and linen are taken into account, the market could total 100 million pounds; this would represent a 25-percent increase over 2007.

Increasing Success
The report mentions that already 150 retail shops and more than 250 Web outlets are selling organic textile products in Great Britain. Marks & Spencer and New Look were selling a combined 3.4 million organic items in 2008. New Look sold 2.3 million of these items - a 50-percent increase over 2007. Organic cotton now accounts for 4.2 percent of its womenswear, compared to 3 percent in 2007. Marks & Spencer sold 1.1 million organic cotton items in 2008 - five times more volume than it sold in 2007.

Get Ready
The trade is convinced there will be a growing need for responsible retailers to offer organic cotton certified by reputable organizations. The report notes that although sales of organic apparel products and textiles have increased more than 10 times since 2002, the current economic downturn could slow down growth next year and also in 2010. There is also an oversupply of organic cotton at the moment, which could drive prices downward. However, as in other segments of the textile industry, let's get ready for the upswing.

For more organic stories, and others too, write to jrupp@textilworld.com.

April 7, 2009