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  • Jennifer Marks

Down by the New Mill Stream

Among U.S. textiles types, the most damning thing you can say about a person is that he's afflicted with "the old mill mentality."

Perhaps because the leading U.S. mills were so embattled for so long the word "mill" itself practically became a pejorative. But I think it's time to stop with the "old mill" stuff. It's a new mill world now.

Welspun is about to move aggressively into the fashion bedding, utility bedding, dec pillow and bath rug categories with new facilities in Mexico and India.

Royale Linens parent Yunus is also building out, adding equipment that will expand printing capacity by 50% next year.

Sunvim and Loftex both expanded their U.S. market share this year.

Bedding set manufacturer GTT International is building out its licensing roster, most recently with Dorma London.

Bath heavyweight Abhishek/Trident is pushing into sheets and expanding its spinning capacity to boost its business as a yarn supplier to other manufacturers.

Sheet-maker Alok Industries is opening up a terry towel plant.

GHCL — parent of former old mill Dan River — is expanding both its textiles production capacity and its international retailing platform.

Elsewhere among new/old mills, WestPoint can proudly point to its Bahrain facility, which alone is the fifth largest supplier of sheets to the United States — and its recently expanded capacity. Springs Global has finally got equipment from the former Springs Industries on the ground in South America and expects to bump back into profitability in Q1 2008. Richloom Shanghai is working to build its distribution into Asian markets.

What is central to the New Mill Mentality? A less U.S.-centric point of view is one defining factor. As this page has noted previously, there are other markets out there.

Another characteristic of the New Mill Mentality is what an executive from one of those mills described as de-risking. As in de-risking geographically by balancing the amount of business devoted to varying countries; de-risking the client roster by making sure no one retailer can sink the business; and de-risking production by adding product categories.

And guess who the new mills are hiring for their U.S. offices? Why, the "old mill" people! Which suggests the New Mill bigs may see merit in a manufacturing pedigree and market relationships that the industry's bashers of old mill hands overlooked.

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