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Jennifer Marks

International Bath Suppliers Optimistic

With the U.S. market moving further into recovery, international bath towel manufacturers are feeling better about the prospects for business, with several adding capacities and most now looking to other parts of the globe for new markets.

“The tug of war between retailers and manufacturers is on for increasing the selling price from manufacturer to retailer. At this point, it appears that the vendors will be able to pass on part of the raw material increase to retailers and who in turn will be forced to increase the retail prices. This whole equation will have a sizeable impact on the retail sales,” said Anurag Sharma, president of exports, Welspun.

The economies in Europe, Japan, Middle East and part of South America markets remain on a very low growth path, he said. North America and Russia are appearing to look little brighter.

“We believe in going direct to retailers and direct to our customers, hence, we have opened up new offices in Spain, Germany, Benelux and very soon we shall do so in France. Our existing sales and marketing offices are in Mexico, U.S., U.K., Portugal, Middle East, India, apart from having associates in China, Japan, Russia and Australia.

Trident India is planning a major expansion in terry towel production this year and into next as well as boosting its capacity for yarn manufacturing. In addition to its current markets, It plans to increase its focus on Russia, the Middle East and South America.

“After the economic slow down of last 12 to 15 months, the economies around the world are looking up again. U.S. economy is estimated to grow by around 2.7% in the year 2010 while world economy and emerging economies are is expected to grow by 3.9% and 6% respectively.,” said PK Markandy, managing director.

In the U.S. market, he said, “Major launches have been planned by most of the retailers in this fall and Christmas. Sales projections are being revised anticipating an increase of 5% to 7% in sales as compared to the last year. “

Alok Industries, a major Indian player in bedding, launched its towel mill about 18 months ago and is already in the process of doubling capacity.

“Coming out of recession is what will help sales growth in America,” said Arun Agarwal, ceo.

But cotton supplies remain a concern.

“Given all the data of land committed to cotton farming and assuming a bumper crop and no additional demand, there still would not be enough cotton to support demand. So that makes us feel, we have not seen true highs as yet,” he said of pricing.

WestPoint Home is fully booked up at its towel mill in Pakistan and has dedicated a portion of the production to non-U.S. accounts as it builds its international business, according to Alan Kennedy, senior vp of sales.

In addition to openings in Australia and New Zealand, the company is looking to Asia as a potential market for its Martex brand.

“In Asia, they're very brand conscious. They want Western brands in China and Taiwan. So, we've started to respond to that. We may be looking to license Martex there,” he said.

Europe is on the expansion agenda for Towellers as is South America, where the company is currently in the process of setting up an agency office. Towellers is also expanding its bath capacity, said S.M. Obaid, ceo and managing director.

“We don't see prices settling in the near future,” he added.

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