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From The Editor
James M. Borneman, Editor In Chief

Burlington's Bet

James M. Borneman, Editor In Chief

F or this Burlington Industries alum of the late 1980s, reading Michael Fitzgerald's "Burlington's Future: Virtually Here" is truly bittersweet. Just as the feature was ready for press, the news of Berkshire Hathaway and W.L. Ross as viable suitors for Burlington confirmed the company has real value, though the outcome is uncertain. But the nature of Burlington's strategy strictly confronts what many believe is the very nature of value in the textile industry - owning the means of production.

Textile companies, both small and large, in the United States have always valued their manufacturing prowess - their ability, through tremendous capital investment, to tune their technical manufacturing capabilities and to produce faster, better and cheaper while pushing the quality and innovation envelopes.

Burlington WorldWide's strategy focuses less on vertical manufacturing for what many regard as the US industry's soft spot - global sales and marketing.

Burlington's business model still demands a strong link between manufacturing and sales - always a difficult place for the industry - with the added complexity of managing licensed technology and leveraging the broad reach of its mature marketing arm.

Is this strategy for everyone? Probably not. With the value-added solution for a commodity product coming from Burlington's technology license, imitation and proliferation of look-alike or perform-alike brands will demand that Burlington pursue strict brand management and promotion. In the rough-and-tumble worlds of global marketing and logistics, will reduced manufacturing ownership provide Burlington the financial strength needed to build and protect a global brand?

For many US manufacturers that have refined their capital investment structure and pointed their manufacturing into the value-added arena, manufacturing has at its core the ability to deliver unique products, control costs and lock in innovation. But the Burlington message is clear - linking unique technology with a commitment to global marketing is the linchpin to surviving in a global marketplace.

This is a new Burlington - far from the company caught in the crosshairs of Asher Edelman and Dominion Textiles in 1987. Yet, having shed so many great divisions over time, Burlington's new strategy might be the only way it can make its mark on the 21st century.

March 2003



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