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Yarn Market
Clarence D. Rogers, Technical Editor

Where Are The Bright Spots?

Clarence D. Rogers, Technical Editor

D emand for U.S. cotton by domestic mills continues to be weak. Some mills are purchasing small volumes for delivery during the first quarter. Others are trying to delay shipments for delivery to a later date. Some mills are canceling contracts. This situation does not paint a very positive outlook. Cotton prices moved up from those reported in the Yarn Market last month. Quotation for the base grade in the seven designated markets averaged 31.70 cents per pound. This price is almost 21 percent lower than six months ago and nearly 50 percent lower than a year ago.

There Is A Light
Looking for positives in our industry it is somewhat like the vision field test at the eye clinic. You sit in a chair and lean forward, with your chin and forehead placed in a fixed position and your eyes focused on a dot in the middle of a half sphere. The attendant hands you a computer-type mouse with a button to press. Then the directions — press the button whenever you see a light anywhere on the inner surface of the half sphere. Get the picture?

Directly in front of your nose, about a foot away is the dot, and you are to click the button anytime you see a star-like light — 90 degrees to the right or left and 90 degrees up or down and anywhere in between. Seldom is there a very bright light. Some are not so bright. And most are dim, very weak or a faint flicker. Sometimes there is no light.

There are companies in our industry that fit into each of these areas. On the upper end of the spectrum are spinners that supply yarns to producers of carpet, automotive fabric, uniform fabrics, knit fabric and men’s bottomweight stretch fabric. One respondent said, “The carpet industry is probably the brightest area right now. Some companies are going great, but others are not doing well.” He went on to say, “Spinners must work hard to keep up with customer requirements. With cost of raw materials like they are and our customers doing everything they can to cut costs, we are being squeezed. I wonder how long we will be here.” With emphasis on cost reduction, will carpet producers become more vertically integrated? Putting more pressure on yarn suppliers?

A knitter said, “We are running our spinning operation seven days a week. Even at that, we are not producing enough to keep up with our knitting operation. We are buying yarn to help production fulfill the needs in knitting. Our restructuring a few years back has really helped us out.” That seems like it was a very smart move.

Some specialty yarns are doing okay. At a recent meeting, a sourcing company manager was asked, “What yarns are hottest right now?” His response was, “Stretch cotton yarns are going very well. We also source a lot of stretch fabrics for men’s bottomweight apparel. Right now, our company seems to be focusing on men’s bottomweight goods. This business is pretty good. We are working with several products, including microfiber in menswear. This is another good area for us.”

Spinner's Future
To reflect on the textile/apparel industry for the past couple of decades brings several points into better focus. First, apparel went offshore, then more fabrics were imported, and more recently, significant volumes of yarn are being sourced. It was reported recently in The New York Times that “All fabrics are produced offshore.” If this statement is anywhere near the truth, what is the future for spinners in the United States? If apparel is offshore and fabric production is offshore, where are the customers for U.S. spinners? Are they offshore?

Finding The Light
This seems like the beginning of the end — the light just grows dimmer at the end of the tunnel. It would seem logical that if we can’t compete in the sales yarn market within our borders, then we can’t compete in foreign lands. Especially when the competitor is halfway around the world and playing in an unrestricted, government-friendly environment.

Jack Welch, former General Electric CEO, pointed out in his book, Straight from the Gut, the immense opportunities that could be gained by putting together two raw materials: money and brains. Seems that you could accomplish almost anything with these two resources. Unfortunately, money is in short supply these days. But when we had money, did we really use our brains? Current situations make one wonder.

February 2002

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