Springs to Close Two Plants

Michele SanFilippo, March 21, 2005

Springs Industries will close two more plants by May 15 and July 1: the Elliott and Frances fabric weaving facilities for bedding in Fort Lawn, S.C., that employ about 250 people.

At Grace Complex in Lancaster, S.C., another 450 jobs will be affected as fabric finishing and sewing capacity is reduced in phases, during the summer and into the fall.

Springs will invest $10 million in its remaining weaving plant in Chester County, S.C. The company will add new technology and relocate equipment from other facilities to its Katherine Plant as part of a strategy to adapt to a smaller number of highly flexible facilities that can compete in a global environment.

According to Springs executives normal turnover and attrition during this period will create some job openings, but the company will also try to find opportunities for affected employees. After the layoffs take place, about 3,000 people will be employed by Springs in Chester and Lancaster counties.

“Despite last year's good performance and the investments Springs has made to stay competitive, recent events have affected expectations for our bedding business,” said Tom Gaffney, executive vice president and president of the company's bedding business.

He said the removal of quotas on Jan. 1, has created significant pricing pressure as new suppliers throughout the world now compete for access to the U.S. marketplace. “As a result, world prices for products like those we make are falling significantly, which means we must act now,” he said.

He added that Springs will continue to implement strategies to remain competitive in a rapidly changing environment. “We believe our U.S.-based facilities can be a competitive strength, and we will compete by balancing what we make in our U.S. plants with what we buy so we can deliver products to customers faster than any overseas supplier.”

The impact of the Springs closings is compounded by a wave of similar closings at rival WestPoint Stevens. WPS has shuttered: Alamance Plant and Distribution Center in Burlington, N.C.; Clemson (S.C.) Fabricating and Greige Plants as well as Distribution Center; the Middletown, Ind. Plant; plus the Drakes Branch, Va. Plant, which manufactured bath products. Earlier closings included Longview Plant in Hickory, N.C., which made bedding accessories, and the Dixie (towels) and Dunson (bedding) plants in LaGrange, Ga.; Fairfax Greige Plant (towels) in Valley, Ala.; and the Coushatta (La.) Plant for basic bedding.

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