Make Sure You Are A Seller, Not Just An Innovator
James M. Borneman, Editor In Chief
n recent months, great examples of positive change in the US textile industry have come
to the forefront. The Southern Textile Association (STA) meeting held recently focused on
innovation and building better relations with retailers. Traditional textile suppliers at the
meeting got the message first-hand as Gary Moore, product integrity director, GAP Inc., presented
straightforward coaching. It is the same message
editors hear often - compete, not as a supplier, but as a supply chain. "You need to
understand," Moore said, "everything has changed." According to Moore, the vertical nature of many
Asian suppliers and their ability to develop and implement products rapidly positions them as
first-line suppliers, while US manufacturers often pick up restocks due to proximity to market.
American Apparel Producers' Network (AAPN) Managing Director Mike Todaro has been saying this for some time now, and has gotten to the point of virtually signing his e-mail with the phrase "Compete as a supply chain." Preparing for its annual meeting, AAPN has focused on building relationships within the supply chain to enhance competitiveness and bettering business relationships between North America and, to use Todaro's phrase, the "Near South," for some time.
On another front, the American Textile Machinery Exhibition-International® (ATME-I®) 2004 illustrated the changes in the industry, with lower critical mass and all the hallmarks of a mature market. Initial reports, cloaked in low expectations, indicated positive results. The first domestic textile machinery show in four years offered opportunities for exhibitors. With 20-percent first-timers, and reasonable traffic from textile decision-makers - technology was sold at the show.
The upcoming Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) Expo in Pittsburgh has all the signs of being the strongest showcase for IFAI thus far, with an active membership and traditional textile manufacturers exhibiting.
There is no doubt the industry is changing. The survivors seem stronger than ever, albeit nervous and frustrated about forecasting even the fourth quarter of 2004. As the anxiety over the removal of quotas in 2005 and the intransigence of the US government in failing to show any support for domestic manufacturing continues, the US textile industry will march on showing signs of life. The key will be to recognize great manufacturing companies must become great marketing companies.
Crandall Close Bowles, when interviewed on the occasion of Springs Industries winning the 2003 Textile World Innovation Award, was asked, "Regarding Springs, what keeps you up at night?" Bowles' response was simple and eloquent: "Remaining relevant," she said.
As the US industry searches for relevance, keep in mind that product innovation isn’t enough - effectively marketing that product is how to win.