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Loftex partners for U.S. expansion

One of China's largest towel manufacturers has formed a joint venture with U.S. home textiles veterans to expand its penetration in the American market.

Loftex Industries China, formerly known as the Shandong Binzhou Yagang Towel Co. Ltd., is partnering with a new company called Loftex Industries USA, whose principals include Gretchen Dale, formerly of Pillowtex, and Jim Ryan, formerly of Cecil Saydah and Welspun.

Loftex Industries China, founded in 1980, generated $140 million in sales last year and has targeted sales of $250 million for 2005, according to the company fact book. Primary export markets to date have been Japan and Australia.

The vertical mill has a spinning capacity of 30,000 metric tons, weaving capacity of 50,000 metric tons and printing capacity of 6,000 metric tons. The company operates more than 2,000 looms and employs more than 6,500 people across 30 facilities. In addition to towels, Loftex China also produces blankets, decorative fabrics, bed linens and bath robes.

"We have got great technical capability, and that's what we're going to emphasize," said Dale, director of design and marketing. "And we will move at a very high speed.

We don't have to go through silos to get the job done."

In addition to Dale and Ryan, who is vice president, other principals of Loftex USA include Yanping Wang, president of both the U.S. and Chinese companies, and Frank Chang, director.

The company has already made some private label towel placements in the discount and specialty store channels. In addition to private label work for importers and retailers, Loftex USA plans to launch a broad line of Loftex branded towels this fall.

The initial introduction will include solid-color towels, solid fancies, jacquards, fiber-reactive bath towels, embroidered and embellished towels, and beach.

"The industry is focused on size, weight and yarn, but we're going to focus on what matters to a woman when she goes looking for a towel — feel, color, absorbency, non-linting and care," Dale said.

Among the innovations Loftex plans to debut are super-absorbent towels that also dry quickly and towels that can stand up to bleach. Each towel will carry a hang-tag explaining its attributes to the consumer. The Loftex brand will aim at the mid-tier to better channels.

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