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Off-Shore Factories Pursuing Domestic Markets

Off-shore factories are pursuing a number of strategies to address the market downtown, chasing new channels, pursuing new markets and paying more attention to domestic markets.

Small wonder. According to data from factory rating and research firm Panjiva, the amount of comforters shipped to the United States fell 61% from a peak in October 2007 to a trough in February 2009. That's just one category.

Off-shore producers responding to an HTT survey last month universally said they were planning for a drop in sales this year — anywhere from 8% to 50%. By the same token, they were optimistic about the future, with most planning for 25% to 30% sales gains between 2009 and 2012.

Yunus/Royale Linens, based in Pakistan, is adding production equipment despite the shrinking U.S. market base so that it will be positioned to capture more share as the economy rebounds. The company recently added a second Regiani machine capable of fine mesh engraving. A third printing machine will arrive at the vertical mill in September. It's also emphasizing its green products, practices and processes and the fact that its operations are fully powered by its own energy plant.

"The company also opened offices in Spain in July '08 and France and Belgium in December," said Frank Snow, vp of operations for the U.S. division. "The capability of doing high fashions thread counts and finer printing has always been important.

Welspun, based in India, debuted new categories of business just as major retailers began going out of business and shutting stores. While consolidation will lead to a short-term hit in sales, the company is planning to double its business by 2012, said Bob Hamilton, marketing director.

North America remains Welspun's largest market — accounted for 70% of sales. The remainder is divided between Europe, Australia and Southeast Asia.

"We're going to continue to focus on ture innovation that can be marketed to consumers needs," he said.

H&H Textile & Garment Company, based in China, grew steadily over the past five years but expects the market downturn to knock sales back. The company expects 30% growth from 2011 to 2012, in part by developing the domestic market.

"We keeping looking for new customers and developing new products with higher added value to improve gross profit," said Aimin Ma, general manager.

Elite Textil (Hangzhou) Co. also does about 70% of its business in North America, with Europe, South America and some domestic business accounting for the rest. This year it is concentrating its efforts on domestic, said Evy Hsu, vp of sales and marketing.

"We are setting up the way to power our China local sale," Hsu said. Despite the fact that some of its competitors have gone out of business, "We still find more competitors."

Arlee Home Fashions, which owns two manufacturing facilities in China, has seen business increase somewhat over the past five years by adding pet beds and making its window treatment line more expansive, said Bud Frankel, president. The sour global economy hasn't impacted the supplier and manufacturing community as much as expected, he said.

"We have the same number of competitors today that we had in 2007. I'm surprised more people haven't gone out. But the truth is, in the case of family-owned and operated companies like ours, there aren't a lot of suppliers who have gone out of business," he said. "And most of our competitors are like us — they are family owned and operated.

Pacific Coast Feather Company's China division is pursuing the domestic hospitality market, recently exhibiting at the Hofex Hong Kong show. In addition to showing hospitality product, the company offer a bed Builder software tool to the market along with care and laundry instructions for hotel staff. Training support helps assure the products will last longer, lowering costs for the hotels, said Joana Zhang, vp of PCF in the Asia Pacific.

"Compared to the past, hoteliers are paying greater attention to quality and durability of the products," she added. "Buyers want both tangible and intangible services built into the product offerings."

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