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
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 —
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.