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From The Editor
James M. Borneman, Editor In Chief

Design, Relationships And Branding

James M. Borneman, Editor In Chief

I t seems these days, all manufacturing industries are forced to examine what they actually do — design, make or market — and adjust to the changes brought about by intense import competition. Often, changes have little to do with what a company does well, but rather, with what it can afford to do — which often leads to plant closings.

Springs Industries Chairman and CEO Crandall Close Bowles said the elimination of quotas has accelerated imports of certain products that compete with Springs’ products.

“You are all aware that we source some products from China, Brazil, Mexico and other countries,” Bowles told Springs employees recently while announcing the closing of three plants. “ Our policy is to make things here unless pricing gets so low that we are not competitive. Then, we must look for other ways to supply the product to our customers or we will lose the business.

“To those of you wondering about the future, I can say with confidence that our long-term outlook is positive,” she said. “We will continue to manufacture in the [United States], though at a reduced size, based on flexible capacity, fast turnaround, short lead times, and lower required levels of inventory. Our company will compete based on our strong retail relationships, a broad product offering, well-known brands, and design and product development expertise. These strategies will enable us to emerge from the current challenging industry transition as a strong and growing company.”

No one likes plant closings, particularly when they result from questionable noncompetitive prices rather than quality differences. Its seems as though product development (design), retail relationships and brands are the future of the US industry.

You may question if this transition is fair — Textile World often does. However, until prices rise — either through fair currency policies in China or import problems — little will slow the shift in US manufacturing.

Regardless of whether you feel this transition is beneficial or it destroys a critical part of the US economy — effective marketing of design capability, relationship-building with customers and branding can make US textile companies successful. Should the climate shift favorably for US manufacturing, companies will be prepared to maximize sales with domestic production.

Unfortunately, many Americans really don’t care where things are made — they want fashion and low prices. Retailers respond, and have their own challenges with speed, quality, design and cost — the key is finding where there is room for US manufacturers.

David Sasso, Buhler Quality Yarns Corp.’s vice president of international sales, said regarding a recent project with a famous brand: “It’s this type of project and relationship that separates cost-based sourcing and premium-quality product development. Speed, quality and cost are all major concerns, but there are areas where US companies can and will compete.”

Design, relationships and brands can be the strong suit in this country. It starts with marketing — building preferences and awareness of US capabilities. Marketing has never been the central concern of US textile companies — maybe it’s time for a change.

February 2005