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When China Price is Not so Nice

Jennifer Marks EDITOR-IN-CHIEFJennifer Marks EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
THE SO-CALLED "CHINA PRICE" isn't what it used to be. And one of the topics that's bubbling up in recent months is the idea there is some opportunity for a bit more U.S. production.
     Not - by any means - a return to the glory days of big mills and large cut & sew facilities. Not anywhere close to it.
     But with freight prices up everywhere and labor prices rising in China (and likely to continue as the middle class grows and workers seek out more lucurative industries than textiles for their labor), I'm hearing more people talking about selective, niche domestic production. Or something nearby, like Mexico.
     In this issue, we have a story about fabric Wearbest Sil-Tex Mills finding a path out of the darkness to rebuild some of its domestic manufacturing base. Also in this issue, 100% Pure co-founder Jonathan Alkin talks about finding opportunities for a domestic cut-and-sew facility that was largely shuttered several years ago as the industry thundered across the water for cheap imports.
     On this issue's People page, HTT reports on industry veteran Rick Rogers being tapped to head sales for Industrias Texil, a fabric weaving and finishing facility in Mexico that is offering itself as an alternative to Asian sources. Indian powerhouse Welspun's bedding plant in Mexico gives it not only proximity to market (with some duty advantages), it has become a platform for opening up business in Latin America.
     We also heard indications during the recent New York Home Fashions Market that a Made in the U.S.A label has some cachet with consumers.
     1888 Mills - the last domestic towel manufacturer standing - put an emphasis on its Made in the U.S.A products during market - although U.S.-made goods account for only 10% of the company's total production. Still, company executives said the strategy is generating interest.
     Newport/Layton Home Fashions also came to market with a Made in the U.S.A story to tell. Although 80% of its dec pillow cut and sew moved overseas several years ago, Newport moved a chunk of that production back- and have received an encouraging response from consumers (in the form of letters and emails) who like seeing the U.S. label on items they've bought.
     The company is now producing 60% of its dec pillows domestically.
     One shouldn't over-estimate the importance of a domestic label - especially in such a soft economy. Right product/right price remains the winning formula in the market and always will.
     But it makes you think.

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