Asia Causes Major Concern

eadership, innovation and creativity are needed more than ever in the U.S. textile
industry. We can’t expect any help from Washington. One spinner said, “It seems that retailers have
flipped the switch and abandoned us right now. They are buying where they can get the best price.
For China and its neighbors, it is easy to have the best price when you don’t have to show a profit
— they have their government support programs. Fair trade is not in their vocabulary. The next few
months are going to be very interesting for the U.S. textile industry.”

Several respondents to the Yarn Market said, “Our biggest concern is the movement of goods
from Asia. They are flooding into the United States in all forms. Not only yarns, but fabrics and
consumer products. Fabrics, wow! There is more coming in fabric form than one would ever imagine.”
And we didn’t think this would happen until 2005.

Looking back just a few years, we started to hear, “We can buy yarn cheaper than we can make
it.” So what happened to spinning in the United States? Spindles were taken out of production, and
the number continues to decrease. Now we are hearing more and more, “We can buy fabric cheaper than
we can

make it.” So weaving capacity in the United States will decrease and continue to decrease.

Where is this going? Is there a winner surviving from the spoils, or are there only losers?
Doesn’t sound like a win/win situation for U.S. spinners, weavers and knitters.

At a recent meeting, the following was given as The Biological Basis of Cooperation: “The
interactions between organisms in nature are often portrayed as conflicts — struggles for existence
— with the spoils going to the victor. Although competition plays an important role in the
evolution of life, the sharing of resources for mutual benefit is another common means by which
organisms succeed and evolve. Such mutualisms, in fact, account for many evolutionary milestones,
including the origin of complex organisms, diverse ecosystems and human civilization.” Can we in
the textile industry learn anything from this?

Business Is About The Same

“Nothing has changed that much in the past few months,” responded a spinner. “We are not
covering total cost, closer to variable cost. We are working six days a week. Every Monday, we come
in and fight each day to give our customers what they want. Let’s face it, the customer base has
shrunk and we are all chasing the same customers. This really makes business more difficult. We are
looking for markets to improve later this year.”

One spinner said, “Our business is pretty good — it is not as bad as some. There is one thing
for certain, our eyes have been opened. We’re thinking, defining opportunities, searching for
something new — the think tanks are out in full force. In the past, when things were good we sat
back, took a snooze, or, in some cases, went sound asleep. But that is not the case now.”

“We have made a lot of yarn for a lot of years,” responded another spinner. “It has been good
for us, and we are still doing okay. But I am not sure that our company can survive on these yarns
in the future. In the future, we may be focusing on different products, such as packaging
materials, composites or automotives. We must think differently. Think out of the box. Put forth
effort on specific priorities.”

“The number of mill closings during the past year and a half has been somewhere around 100,”
stated a speaker at a recent meeting. He went on to say, “We’re not done yet. Scary. We have to get
going to change this.” 

Spinning Capacity

Estimates of spinning capacity in the United States have been given as about 3 million ring
spindles, and in terms of ring-spindle equivalents, there are 6 million spindles for rotor spinning
and 1.5 million spindle equivalents for air-jet spinning. These numbers indicate that there is
twice as much ring spinning capacity compared to air-jet capacity, and rotor spinning has four
times the capacity of air-jet spinning.

Some air-jet yarn spinners seem to be doing very well — specifically, spinners of 100-percent
polyester and blends. One air-jet spinner said, “We are running six days, which is great in this
economic climate, and we are currently booked for several weeks. Maybe this niche area will last a
little longer.” We hope so.

October 2001