DuPont blends textiles biz into larger structure

Retail Editor 2, Carole Sloan, January 15, 2001

WILMINGTON, DE — With the merger of its textile businesses into a $3.5 billion single structure, DuPont is aiming to dramatically change the way it approaches the textile home furnishings and apparel businesses.

Changing from an "asset-forward approach to a market-backed vision is a radical tenet," said Bill Ghitis, president of the Home and Industrial Textiles part of the new Apparel and Textiles Sciences unit that began operations this month.

"Before, we had plants and made product and sold it. The way we're looking at the market now is that the consumer is king and makes their own choices. Our vision now is to grow consume pref- erence and loyalty for our customers' offerings by linking DuPont science with the promise of our brands."

In the past, the company had totally separate organizations for each of its fiber businesses. Under the new structure, all fiber products plus other DuPont services will be handled by one person calling on a specific company. In addition, where before products were looked upon as being for apparel, home furnishings or industrial uses, the new group is breaking down those barriers and is looking for innovation applications across the board, Ghitis explained.

"Our brands are extraordinary," Ghitis remarked, and pointing to Lycra spandex as an example said, "It's extraordinarily well known in ready to wear. We're talking to a consumer who knows it and who also purchases pillows, comforters and furniture. We've never exploited Lycra in that way."

Already in the works for Lycra, Ghitis said, is "leather which has stretch and recovery for furniture. It's not commercially available yet," but the company has working samples of the products.

Similarly, Ghitis said there are things in the development stage that could radically change the sheet business through technology. "We could bring about a sheet by adding a dimension of stretch and recovery as well as moisture management."

And conversely, "there is potential for Comferel in apparel that has not been explored, even as strong as it is in pillows and comforters. We have been sitting on assets and not leveraging them," Ghitis emphasized.

Beyond fibers and the integration of the thinking and product development within the group, "we're looking at a pipeline of science streams," said Carol Gee, global director, brands. "It's a radical intent. We have five megabrands at the consumer level, especially Lycra and Teflon. In the past, we've spent a lot of money on many brands. We're going to consolidate — to leverage the power of the megabrands."

Overall, Ghitis continued, "our vision is a one-stop shop for our customers. At this point we're at a conceptual level about bringing Teflon and possibly Stainmaster into the program as well as industrial services for a total fiber, finish and market access approach."

Over the last few years, DuPont has moved much of its polyester staple and filament operations into joint ventures. The new business unit is responsible for Lycra spandex, nylon textiles, nylon industrial specialties, Dacron branded specialties and fiberfill.

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