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Hilasal Thinks Smart, Moves Fast

Pembroke Pines, Fla. — The industry's post-quota, mad dash to the East actually turned out to be a good thing for Hilasal USA, the American arm of North America's third largest towel mill.

With factories in Guadalajara, Mexico and San Salvador, El Salvador, the company has been able to position itself as the rapid response supplier with a 12-week turnaround on new programs, according to Larry Price, director of U.S. sales. This is supported by pick-and-pack operations at both plants and at its distribution centers in Miami and Laredo, Texas.

“That's the reason we had such a good market,” Price said, noting that some accounts who pursued new resources in 2005 got burned. “They're all customers that we shipped to for years, that went away — that are now coming back.”

The vertically integrated mill has repositioned itself from a provider of promotional bath and beach towels to a rapid-response niche resource. Hilasal also has zeroed in on retail companies that the mega-mills cast aside. “We've elected not to quote on any programs at the major discounters,” said Price. “We'd rather have 25 or 30 $1 million and $2 million accounts. It's healthier in the long run.” Hilasal has evolved from heavy emphasis on beach towels — it is one of the world's largest manufacturers of fiber reactive prints — to better quality solid color programs, which now account for 80% of its production in both plants.

The U.S. decision late last year to re-impose quotas on towel exports from China also helped. Mills there “now have to pick and choose which orders they want to ship,” Price contended.

But it's the quality control, a 99.4% completion rate on replenishment and proximity to the market that are really motivating recent business gains. “We are 10 hours from the border in our Mexico facility, and three days from Miami in our Salvador factory,” he noted. “We can receive orders on Monday and ship on Friday.”

Hilasal recognizes that Asian factories will improve. “The competition is responding and the systems are being built,” Price acknowledged.

“What we've decided to do is focus on what we do best — to niche.”

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