U.S. suppliers have the upper hand - as yet

In the rapidly evolving global marketplace, U.S.-based importers are still outselling foreign-based exporters in this country in five key home textiles categories examined by HTT, and also are growing their sales volume of foreign-produced goods more rapidly than off-shore manufacturers.

Most of the top 5 U.S. importers in the categories of sheets, duvets/comforter covers, bath towels, window treatments and table linens stepped up their import levels by a double-digit percentage in 2001 vs. 2000. And among those in this survey, which included U.S.-incorporated divisions of overseas firms, some boosted their import programs significantly.

Springs, for instance, went from the metaphorical equivalent of zero-to-60 in its off-shore sourcing of sheets and towels. In sheets, Springs' $77 million in import sales represented an explosive 1,440 percent increase over the previous year's $5 million — the highest increase in the survey. Its volume of towel imports showed the second highest jump in the survey, increasing 200 percent to some $75 million.

The U.S. division of Indian towel maker Welspun also bucked up its import volume significantly, showing a 60 percent increase in bath towel sales to $32 million.

Year-over-year gains in export business to the U.S. were most dramatic among bath towel manufacturers, with Abhishek Industries (a division of India-based The Trident Group) jumping a whopping 89 percent and Afroze Textile Industries of Pakistan racheting up its U.S. bath towel business by 68 percent in 2001.

Otherwise, there was only one other gainer of significance — Pakistani-based Towellers Ltd., which grew sales of comforter shells/duvet covers by 300 percent.

Exporter sales volumes generally pale in comparison to the amount of business being done by leading U.S. suppliers, manufacturers and importers in any category — a reminder of the challenges faced by both U.S. suppliers and retailers looking to source large programs at one shop. Thus, the industry seems to have no shortage of consultants who have built a practice on the uncertainty and naivete of a supplier and retailer base that through the 1990s was mostly content to stay at home.

Language barriers are the least of the challenges facing U.S. companies seeking overseas partners. A reporter calling in to mainland China was never more than one person away from English, albeit sometimes difficult-to-understand English. In one instance, even a wrong number into a private residence resulted in a clear, helpful response — with the correct telephone number.

Other issues appear much more formidable, ranging from cultural differences to political uncertainty. This is all happening, it seems, just after the industry finally got the just-in-time supply chain right.

There are literally thousands of companies in the cauldron looking to do business beyond their borders. Finding them is something else again. Like Woodward and Bernstein's "Deep Throat," no one in the global game wants to identify their sources. No one wants to be undercut or cut out entirely.

Their reticence is understandable; no one wants to lose an edge. But it does seem certain that in the age of global trade the term "partnership" will, more than a cliche, become an essential tool of mutually assured survival.

Research for this report was compiled by the HTT staff and contributing editor Brent Felgner. In cases where companies did not provide firm numbers, estimates were used.

U.S.-based importers*
Sheets $millions

Name, HQ 2001 import vol. 2000 import vol. % Chg.
* Includes U.S. divisions of foreign companies
Source: HTT Research
1. Springs, Fort Mill, SC $77 $5 1,440%
Springs Industries' stepped up its sourcing operations significantly in sheets, but even more so in greige goods used for sheet production in the U.S.
2. WestPoint Stevens, West Point, GA $53 $38 39%
Imported sheet programs grew during 2001 due to a number of factors, among them, the growth in embroidered and embellished designs at the higher end, and the shift of some higher-count sheeting production overseas.
3. Divatex, New York, NY $47 $39 21%
The twin pillars of Divatex's growth in sheets have been the growth of jersey in the specialty channel and the expansion in all classes of trade of better-quality, higher-thread sheet programs.
4. Haywin Home Fashions, New York, NY $45 $32 43%
Deeper penetration in retailer-specific programs helped propel imports, and the upcoming rollout of licensed programs from FUBU and Jessica McClintock is expected to fuel the trend into 2003.
5. American Pacific, San Francisco $30 $25 20%
The growth of the Nautica program during 2001 boosted imported sheet programs significantly, in large part because both Linens 'n Things and Bed Bath & Beyond embraced Nautica as a "designer" label for the specialty channel.

Exporters to U.S.
Sheets $millions

Name, HQ 2001 export to U.S. 2000 export to U.S. % chg.
Source: HTT Research
1. Bombay Dyeing & Mfg Co. Ltd., Bombay, India $37 $38.5 -4%
Bombay Dyeing is a 100-plus year old company that has sought to survive and grow through diversification in other industrial pursuits. Still, well over half of its total revenues are from textiles and it still produces more than $100 million for worldwide sales.
2. Nishat Mills Ltd., Karachi, Pakistan $33 $34 -3%
Nishat is one of the largest textiles suppliers in Pakistan producing $298 million in total sales, of which $143 million is destined for export. In addition to bed linens, it's also a major supplier of table linens, curtains and comforter shells.
3. Pak Fung, Hong Kong $15 $13.6 10%
Long known for its production of comforter shells, this firm will undoubtedly be among those that lead its mainland brethren into the global marketplace as trade barriers come down.
4. Kucukcalik, Istanbul, Turkey $11 $10.8 2%
This company, founded in 1966, exploded with new growth in the early 90's and presently operates four major factories producing worldwide export sales of $100 million annually.
5. Century Textiles & Industries, Bombay, India $5 $5.2 -3%
Century is one of the largest textile exporters in India, producing about $55 million in outbound sales. The more than 100-year-old company is a diversified industrial company with a fully integrated textiles operation.

U.S.-based importers*
Bath towels (does not include kitchen towels, dish cloths, or beach) $millions

Name, HQ 2001 import vol. 2000 import vol. % chg.
* Includes U.S. divisions of foreign companies
Source: HTT Research
1. Springs Ind., Fort Mill, SC $75 $25 200%
Importing more towels on the strength of rising sales and a strong position at Wal-Mart. Also, in August 2001, Springs and Brazilian manufacturer Coteminas partnered under a strategic long-term alliance to produce bedding and bath products.
2. JR United, Miami, FL $45 $42 7%
Recently stepped up importing efforts by investing in more factories overseas. JR United now imports 90 percent of its towel line, including jacquards and solids with strong placement in the mass market.
3. Terrisol Corp., New York, NY $32.5 $22 47%
Inceased sku count by double and adopted more programs to include product at all price points for retail partners in all tiers — mass through department stores.
4. Welspun, New York, NY $32 $20 60%
An established Wal-Mart vendor, Welspun has enjoyed a long and enviable run of its products in the U.S. at other showcase venues, despite a few operational and financial detours taken a couple of years ago by parent Welspun India. Now reorganized independently, Welspun has focused on deeper penetration of import markets, particularly in the U.S.
5. Espalma/CobraTrading, New York, NY $22 $20 10%
Company increased production by adding new color programs and expanded its customer base at the mid-tier, department and specialty stores, and catalogs.

Exporters to U.S.
Bath towels (does not include kitchen towels, dish cloths, or beach) $millions

Name, HQ 2001 export to U.S. 2000 export to U.S. % chg.
Source: HTT Research
1. Abhishek Industries (The Trident Group), Punjab, India $28.2 $14.9 89%
A Wal-Mart "2001 International Supplier of the Year," this company's products can also be found at J.C. Penney, Burlington Coat Factory, as well as through established U.S. based suppliers.
2. Bombay Dyeing & Mfg Co. Ltd, Mumbai, India $16 $16.7 -4%
Pressured by increasing costs and constricting markets, along with a parental decision to diversify, Bombay Dyeing struggled to retain market share.
3. Afroze Textile Industries (Pvt), Ltd., Karachi, Pakistan $13 $7.7 68%
Afroze has been quietly growing and forming business alliances, stressing its consistency, integrity and professional management. Besides towels, the company focuses on its bed quilt segment.
4. Modern Terry Towels, Gujarat, India $5.2 $6.6 -11%
After struggling for several years, Modern saw a positive sales trend in FY2002, increasing total sales 36% to $16.6 million, although corporate profitability remained elusive.
5. Towellers, Ltd., Karachi, Pakistan $3.3 $3.9 17
Towellers is looking to protect and expand its presence here by shopping around the U.S., seeking "strategic alliances" with manufacturers that have established marketing relationships.

U.S.-based importers*
Comforter shells/duvet covers $millions

Name, HQ 2001 import vol. 2000 import vol. % chg.
n/a = not available or not applicable
* Includes U.S. divisions of foreign companies
Source: HTT Research
1. American Pacific, San Francisco $32 $27 20%
During 2001, American Pacific expanded personnel in its offices in China, Pakistan and India. It's now in the process of opening additional offices in Hong Kong, Turkey and Mexico.
2. WestPoint Stevens, West Point, GA $20 $15 33%
Although it continues to be the low-coast producer among American mills, WestPoint is expanding sourcing as needed to meet specific program requirements.
3. Divatex, New York, NY $18 $16 13%
Divatex has been adding staff in its sourcing offices and is establishing new operations in Turkey and India. Earlier this year, it acquired a new distribution center in South Carolina to handle additional volume.
4. Hollander Home Fashions, Boca Raton, FL $18 n/a n/a
Hollander is in the process of expanding the amount of business its doing through its joint venture in China, which sews shells and processes feathers and down. It also continues to source elsewhere globally.
5. Haywin Home Fashions, New York, NY $18 $14 29%
With its own factory in Mexico, as well as sourcing alliances internationally, Haywin anticipates its overseas sourcing to grow in proportion to its U.S. manufacturing operations.

Exporters to U.S.
Comforter shells/duvet covers $millions

Name, HQ 2001 export to U.S. 2000 export to U.S. % chg.
Source: HTT Research

1. Pak Fung, Hong Kong $45 $47.4 -5%
This company's customers say it all: Dayton Hudson, JCPenney, Sears, Stein-Mart, Bloomingdale's and QVC, not to mention two major U.S. mills and leading utility bedding producers.
2. Bombay Dyeing & Mfg Co. Ltd., Mumbai, India $12 $12.5 -4%
Still a formidable player in the marketplace, Bombay Dyeing has been buffeted by the softness in the global marketplace.
3. Nishat Mills, Karachi, Pakistan $11 $11.6 -5%
Nishat brings a broad base of support to its product offerings and continues to work at expanding its presence here.
4. Towellers Ltd, Karachi, Pakistan $1.7 $0.4 300%
Towellers is moving quickly to meet market demands as well as grab market share. Its U.S. export strategy involves hooking up with established firms and providing the manufacturing strength to their marketing savvy.
5. Zhejiang Xinehe Fearther & Down, Zhejiang, China $1 $0.9 5%
This mainland firm is moving quickly to prepare for the open market. While most of its export attention to date has been on the Japanese market, it clearly covets a stronger U.S. presence.

U.S.-based importers*
Window treatments (finished goods only) $millions

Name, HQ 2001 import vol. 2000 import vol. % chg.
* Includes U.S. divisions of foreign companies
Source: HTT Research
1. S. Lichtenberg, New York, NY $100 $92 10%
Now a substantial part of the business, importing has grown dramatically at Lichtenberg and will continue. The company, which has been importing for 50 years, either works directly with overseas mills or with its extensive network of agents overseas.
2. CHF Industries, New York, NY $80 $70 14%
CHF began its window import business five years ago, and it has since grown to be a consistent, large percentage of sales, though that has not changed over the past few years. Its four-year-old Peri program is largely imported as well.
3. Burlington Industries, Greensboro, NC $29 $31 (-6.5%)
Burlington's window imports declined in 2001 as overall window sales declined to $113 million from $125 million. Burlington, now a division of Springs, produces virtually all of its fabric in its U.S. plant, but about 25 percent is then shipped to Mexico to be cut and sewn into finished product which is then returned to the U.S.
4. Croscill, New York, NY $29 $16 81%
Croscill is currently looking at importing from a dozen countries, whether its going direct or through agents. China, India and Turkey are its largest resources, but it also has dealt with Pakistan, Taiwan, Korea, Israel, Spain, and Mexico, and it may eventually open offices overseas.
5. Arlee, New York, NY $15 $12 25%
Only three years ago, 90 percent of Arlee's window product was made domestically. That number has since shrunk to 10 percent, while the import portion of the business has taken off, though it will probably stay at the current ratio.

Exporters to U.S.
Window treatments (finished goods only) $millions

Name, HQ 2001 export to U.S. 2000 export to U.S. % chg.
1. Ulusoy Tekstil A.S., Istanbul, Turkey $7.5 $7.1 5%
Part of a large diversified industrial concern that includes transportation and travel services, Ulusoy Tekstil remains at the core of the group as it expands its marketing horizons globally. Still, U.S. sales in this category are a small portion of its business.
2. Kucukcalik Tekstil, Istanbul, Turkey $6.8 $6.4 6%
Curtains are another of the core categories for this company, which recorded $100 million in export sales in FY2001. Kucukcalik currently operates four factories producing home textiles and some apparel.
3. Chenab Ltd, Faiselabad, Pakistan $5 $4.6 7%
Chenab Fabrics is one of the largest exporting companies in Pakistan, although its interests are very diverse.
4. Shaoxing Heng Feng Curtain Factory, Shaoxing, China $3 n/a n/a
This operation lays claim to being the largest curtain manufacturer in China and is actively looking to expand its global presence.
5. Prakash Cotton Mills Ltd, Mumbai, India $3 $2.8 4%
While one of the largest textile producers and exporters worldwide, Prakash has focused most of its export interests in other markets. Still, it's a significant producer with high-volume capacity.

U.S.-based importers*
Table linens $millions

Name, HQ 2001 import vol. 2000 import vol. % chg.
* Includes U.S. divisions of foreign companies
Source: HTT Research
1. Town & Country, NY $64.5 $54 19%
To stay competitive and provide its retail customers with low pricing on goods, Town & Country over the past year forged a joint partnership with a table linens factory in China to co-own and operate the facility.
2. Elrene Home Fashions, NY $47.5 $37 28%
Looking to accommodate retailers' demands for more low-cost goods, Elrene continued to increase its imported volume to 95 percent of its entire product line and began construction on an expansion project on its Bronx, NY-based distribution center. The company increased the number of facilities it imports from throughout Asia.
3. Bardwil Linens, NY $45 $45 0%
Bardwil, an importer and overseas manufacturer from China and Europe since it was established in the early 1900s, has exclusive partnerships with suppliers in Taiwan to produce a broad range of table linens.
4. Avonhome, Braintree, MA $40 $37 8%
Avonhome cut ties with the Taiwan-based factory it was working with because of higher production costs and forged a joint partnership with a factory in China. The company also continued to step up production in India and Pakistan.
5. W-C Designs, Anaheim, CA $28 $25 12%
UK-based Waterford Wedgewood plc in July 2001 acquired Ashling Corp., producer of W-C Designs table and bed linens. WC-Designs' entire line of table linens is imported from overseas.

Exporters to U.S.
Table linens $millions

Name, HQ 2001 export to U.S. 2000 export to U.S. % chg.
Source: HTT Research
1. Handfab India, Panipat, India $14 $12.9 8%
This supplier touts its commitment to on-time delivery of a very focused product mix and an impressive list of clients, including JCPenney, Calvin Klein Home, Pier 1, Dayton Hudson and Wal-Mart.
2. Nishat Mills, Karachi, Pakistan $9.5 $9.8 -3%
Nishat Mills is the one of the largest textiles suppliers in Pakistan producing $298 million in total sales of which $143 million is destined for export markets.
3. Kucukcalik, Istanbul, Turkey $8 $7.4 8%
Table linens is one of the core categories for this company, which recorded $100 million in export sales in FY2001. Kucukcalik currently operates four factories producing home textiles and some apparel.
4. Bombay Dyeing & Mfg Co. Ltd., Mumbai, India $7.5 $7.8 -4%
A diversified industrial firm, well over half of Bombay Dyeing's total revenues derive from textiles and the company still produces more than $100 million for worldwide sales. It remains a significant source to the U.S. market as well.
5. Anglo-French Textiles/Inspirations, Bombay, India $3 $3.1 -5%
Part of the Anglo-French Drugs & industries, Co. Ltd., conglomerate, textiles plays a smaller but still important role for this concern. Design is one of the company's stated key market drivers.

Home & Textiles Today Staff | News & Commentary

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