From The Editor: The Power Of The Towel

By Jim Borneman, Editor In Chief

Earlier this year, you may recall that Walmart made headlines when President and CEO Bill Simon announced a $50 billion, 10-year commitment to U.S. manufacturing. Simon spoke of rethinking Walmart’s sourcing model and also referenced towels made by U.S. manufacturer 1888 Mills rolling
into 600 stores in the spring and 600 more stores in the fall.

It was good news, but — OK — it’s just towels, right? No, it is towels at Walmart.

In its Black Friday coverage, CNBC reported: “The must-have item at Walmart on Black Friday
wasn’t a mega TV, sleek tablet or the latest giggling Elmo. It was towels.”

CNBC stated: “The retailer announced it had sold 2.8 million towels during the shopping event, which this year started even earlier at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. The textile sales outpaced the 300,000 bicycles, 1.4 million tablets and 2 million televisions sold during the period, and also beat last year’s towel sales by 1 million.”

CNBC went on to report that “for $1.74, bath towels and six packs of washcloths were available. That breaks down to $0.29 per washcloth.”

No mention is made of the towels’ origins, but here’s some insight to what it means when Walmart says towels — 2.8 million multiplied by $1.74 is $4.87 million worth of towel sales in a day and a half.

As “Made in USA” continues to be of interest to consumers, there also seems to be, anecdotally at least, more positive news regarding U.S. textiles. In the three pages of News in
this issue of Textile World, eight of the 11 stories refer to plant investments, acquisitions or expansions. In addition, there are another five stories in the Fiber World section; one in Dyeing, Printing and Finishing; two in Knitting/Apparel; five in Nonwovens/Technical Textiles; and one in Supplier Notes
— that is a lot of stories on the positive side of establishing new facilities, expanding existing facilities, making acquisitions and investing in plant and equipment.

This trend is noticeable in the national press as well. The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) is full of good news. Of the 18 manufacturing industries that reported for the November 2013 Manufacturing ISM Report on Business®, 15 reported growth, and textile mills ranked second only to
plastics and rubber products. Apparel, on the other hand, leads the three industries that contracted during the period.

It isn’t easy to be an optimist in the textile industry, but it is hard to ignore all of the business activity currently taking place: Shaw, $100 million; Grupo Karim’s, $35 million;
ShriVallabh Pittie, $70 million; Gildan, more than $250 million; Parkdale, $85 million; Toray, $584 million; Louis Hornick, $2.5 million; Fitesa, $50 million; Sappi, $170 million; JN Fibers, $45
million; Palmetto Synthetics, $1.1 million; Jacob Holm, more than $45.9 million; Owens Corning, $120 million; Custom Nonwoven, more than $12.8 million; Kayser-Roth, $28 million; Goulston Technologies, $8 million — that is $1.6 billion worth of optimism. Add to that the unreported investment activity, and you are talking real optimism. There is an old rule that economic recoveries are led by investment in plant and equipment — let’s hope that old rule holds true.

November/December 2013