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Jennifer Marks

The industry in a nutshell

Some weeks, the news breaks in a way that a single issue of this publication resembles a true microcosm of the industry. This week's issue is one of those.

Consider first the juxtaposition of news items about Croscill and Divatex.

Croscill, now the sixth largest home textiles supplier in the United States, has consolidated two window cut-and-sew facilities into one, is preparing to open a state-of-the-art distribution center with laser-guided forklifts, and is adding five positions to its Shanghai office, more than doubling the staff size there. U.S. produced goods now account for about 30 percent of Croscill's units, a ratio that is likely to decline further as it beefs up its overseas expertise.

As pricing demands continue to sharpen, Croscill is moving to rapidly excise costs from its operation.

Divatex, on the other hand — one of the early all-sourcing/no-machines companies — has opened a cut-and-sew facility in the United States capable of producing 1.5 million sheet sets per year.

As fast-response requirements on volume orders becomes ever more critical, Divatex — which had not previously owned its own production — is installing production close to home to support its orders.

Divatex isn't the only all-offshore company popping into the news. The Top 15 report that begins on p. 14 has two notable new faces: Keeco and American Pacific. Most newcomers creep onto the chart in the No. 15 position. These two catapulted into the rankings at the No. 11 and No. 12 spots, respectively. Not so very long ago each company was primarily a quilting resource.

As market demands require suppliers to become more important with key accounts, both exploded out their product categories.

More evidence of the industry's changing structure emerges in this issue's annual report of Top 5 suppliers by product category. American Pacific turns up for the first time among leading comforter suppliers. JR United earns a berth among the top towel suppliers. Franco makes its debut on the list of sheet/pillowcase suppliers.

As the traditional base of domestic mills has eroded — admittedly forced out by pricing constraints — sourcing operators are increasingly taking lead positions in the industry.

Which brings us to the subject of Pillowtex and perhaps this week's most interesting piece of news — the Li & Fung deal for Royal Velvet.

This is the first time in the history of the Top 15 report that Pillowtex or one of its predecessor companies — Cannon, Fieldcrest/Cannon et al — has not appeared in the ranking. How telling that in the same week a Hong Kong-based holding company announces that it has signed an agreement to design, produce and distribute one of the granddaddies of American home brands.

Such, my friends, is the way of the world. But by now everybody should have caught on to that.

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