Mills Stress Innovation, Marketing

pinners interviewed for this month’s Yarn Market include a specialty ring spinner, a
multiple-system spinner and a specialty industrial spinner. All serve different markets, but all
have much in common, especially in their strategies for future success. All have strong export
businesses that include shipping product to Central America, Mexico, Europe, South Africa and
sometimes Asia. All serve one or more domestic niches that reduce the impact imports have on their

Each is working with specialty fibers including Supima® cotton, microfibers and new man-made
fibers that recently have come on the market.

One of these spinners also is moving his marketing efforts further downstream to get closer
to the brands and the retailers.

“We’re calling on our customers’ customers now, letting them know what we are doing in
product development,” said the multiple-system spinner. “It’s already paid off in a couple of

“Everyone is wringing their hands wondering what’s going to be left for us,” he continued. “
I think instead we have to be looking for opportunities to outperform [imports]. You’re not going
to outprice them.”

The three spinners also report taking steps to ensure their companies’ survival, including
purchasing new equipment, trimming the workforce, increasing SKUs, and diversifying into fabric in
addition to yarn.

Diverse Outlooks For The New Year

As for spinners, they are restlessly watching the clock tick towards Jan. 1, 2005, to find
out if their coaches will indeed turn into pumpkins. They also are growing weary of fielding
crystal ball questions about their businesses in the coming year.

“If I knew the answer to that question I could be on the cover of every textile and business
magazine in America,” one spinner said.

Two of the three spinners were upbeat about the first quarter. The third was less certain,
but had good air-jet business booked through January.

“I’ve got orders pretty steady through February right now,” the ring spinner said. “And I’ve
got a couple of things pending; if they come about, my first quarter is booked up, which is farther
out than I’ve been in a long time.”

“This is the slow time of the year for us anyway,” the multiple-system spinner said. “I don’t
know how much is seasonal and how much is weakness in the market.”

His air-jet business appears to be on the rebound. He feels this is due mainly to one of the
major players closing down a large air-jet plant.

“Air-jet is the one thing that I’m sold up on,” he said. “Being sold up today and being sold
up 10 years ago are two different stories. I’m busy through January. I don’t have an order on the
books for February. There aren’t any programs anymore; there are orders.”

The industrial spinner was coming off a great year that started out strong and then gradually
slowed. He expects the first quarter to be good.

“It is much softer going into the third and fourth quarters than it was in the first and
second,” he said. “This is pretty unusual. First and third quarters are usually our biggest
quarters. We’ve had deeper decreases than we usually have this time of year. We feel like the first
quarter will bounce back and be pretty strong. I don’t feel that it will be as strong as the first
quarter of 2004, which was quite phenomenal.”

Will 2005 Be Worse Than Y2K?

Two of the spinners surveyed mentioned the almost forgotten Y2K scare. One wondered if the
uncertainty over 2005 is just as misplaced, and the other noted that textile executives are far
more apprehensive about the quota phase-out than they ever were about the Y2K glitch.

The industrial spinner feels the quota phase-out won’t really affect his market segment.
Still, imports are cutting into his customers’ businesses, and therefore, imports are eroding his
business as well.

“Our customers are getting inundated by imported finished products,” he said. “They are
generally the lowest-cost, lowest-quality items. There is still room for innovation, new fibers and
new, different products.”

January 2005