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The Rupp Report: Quality Or Label?

Jürg Rupp, Executive Editor

One of the favorite sayings of the author of the Rupp Report is "There is no coincidence — it has to happen." And — as a confirmation of that — a coincidence happened with regard to some discussions during the yarn exhibition FILO in Milan, which took place March 20-21, 2013, and an article in the latest issue of Textile World .

Managing Editor Janet Bealer Rodie wrote for the last issue of TW an article with the question, "What's In A Brand?" And the Rupp Report had a very lively discussion at FILO with Roberto Belloli, managing director of Antonio Aspesi S.r.l., Busto Arsizio, Italy. Aspesi produces mainly customized warps for its clientele. "Our customers are weaving special products, so they need special warps, customized to their needs," Belloli said, "And that is what we are doing." (See " The Rupp Report: FILO: The European Art Of Surviving In Spinning," TextileWorld .com, March 26, 2013.)

Description Of Definition Problems?
But what is the definition of customers' needs? Is it quality? Or are all requirements from the customers incorporated in a label or a brand? Or are the characteristics of the product even hidden behind the label? If a fiber or a fabric has inherent technical characteristics that can be measured, there is no problem. Rodie wrote in her report about various man-made fibers and their properties. However, she also wrote that "numerous branded fibers are emphasizing their low carbon footprints, citing reduced energy and resource consumption, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions." Well, true or not? That is the question.

It's The Image That Counts
Now, what's the basic aim of every business? Of course, it's selling. And successful selling includes all well-known aspects of the whole marketing activity. Over the last decades, some companies built up a certain reputation with a consequent and — on top of it all — consistent labeling or brand policy. And this is a big money affair: Especially, some big retail chains and brands in the sportswear industry are spending millions and millions of dollars to be recognized in the market as top brands. Even big sports heroes are on the payroll to support the defined characteristics and, above all, the image of the brand or label.

Up to now, some big labels have been having tremendous success: For example, U.S. producer Nike can show impressive figures: In 1972, when Nike started selling athletic shoes under its label, revenues were less than $2 million. In 1977 the company had revenues of $28.7 million. In 1981, they were already more than $457.7 million. In 2008, they totaled $18.6 billion; and in 2012, $24.13 billion was recorded. These are very impressive results and are based virtually on two pillars: effective and low-cost production; and brand marketing. Experts say that Nike is spending 10 percent of its turnover in communications activities — which means events, advertising and top athletes as product endorsers — showing again that external communications are very important for the success of a company. That is also the case for business-to-business (b2b) relations.

But Not Only
However, big retail companies and sports brands also are having some trouble caused by the perception of modern young people vis-à-vis ecologically and socially questionable production facilities and methods. And, even more, small companies never have the cash to spend so much money on external communication. They make their success through quality and service: "Yes," Belloli said, "all that might be very important for the retail side. But for our b2b customers, quality is the top priority. We don't have the money to push our name through all the stages of production, so we have to convince our customers with top quality, top service and outstanding products. To be successful, we need a package of performances that are not comparable with those of other suppliers."

Of course, one has to define its target customers. All the exhibitors of FILO are playing in the top league of yarn producers. And they do it successfully. As Nicole Camenzind, director of Switzerland-based silk yarn producer Camenzind said: "We can't compete on price if we are in the segment in which most of the global players try to find their success. There is always one who is cheaper than you are. For a European manufacturer, and even more for a Swiss company, you have to offer the market products and services that are second to none. We do not sell on price — we sell top quality with our label Swiss Mountain Silk. And, as you can see, we are still alive," she added with a smile.

Find The Right Way
For obvious reasons, many traditional textile companies are trying to find new key markets, but having too many competitors: Their products are replaceable. Some are challenging the industrial fabrics sector, while others are trying to find a niche. These strategies can work if you have the right ideas, skilled people with the necessary experience and a lot of courage. Also, in the b2b sector, branding can play an important role. Here are a few names that Rodie mentioned in her report: ComFortrel®; EcoSure®; Repreve®; LYCRA®; and Sorona®. In the case of DuPont's Lycra, it worked — that brand became virtually a generic name for elastic yarns in the mad-made fiber industry.

However, it takes time and a lot of money. And, as DuPont demonstrated over the decades, don't forget to communicate, whether you are selling an image or top quality. And, at the end of the day, it's always human relations that dictate success!

April 9, 2013

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