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From The Editor
James M. Borneman, Editor In Chief

China Textiles By The Numbers

James M. Borneman, Editor In Chief

T he story of China’s developing textile industry and its impact on US textiles has been told over and over again — so much so that many simply shrug their shoulders or nod their heads as if to say, “old news.” But, not so fast — China’s development may be a familiar theme, but the numbers are staggering and worth the attention.

China’s People’s Daily newspaper recently reported that China’s textile industry is still growing, and growing more profitable. Citing sources at the China Textile Industry Association, People’s Daily states the number of major textile enterprises — companies with greater than $650,000 in annual sales — grew to 42,000 companies, a 12.1-percent year-over-year increase ending in the January/February 2007 period.

For the first two months of 2007, People’s Daily reports those same companies saw profits grow 39.5 percent on sales that grew 24.1 percent.

So China’s textile growth continues, but what kind of textiles is the industry producing? The short answer is, just about everything. People’s Daily states that for the first quarter of 2007, China’s textile sector produced 4.17 million tons of yarn, a 21.6-percent increase; 10.5 billion meters of fabric, up 8.1 percent; 4.1 billion units of clothing, a 20.5-percent increase; and 5.37 million tons of chemical fiber, an increase of 16.9 percent.

The China story also is about investment. From January 2007 through the end of March, China’s textile companies are said to have invested $5 billion in fixed assets, up 31.6 percent from the same period in 2006. Additionally, the industry increased quarterly exports by 14.9 percent to more than $32 billion; and imports of $4 billion, are up 4.9 percent.

The numbers presented by People’s Daily are so large, one wonders if there was a mistake in translation; however, given China’s global impact on textiles, odds are the numbers are correct.

China’s growth has changed the landscape of textiles and forced the US industry to shift focus, innovate and reinvent the US textile business.

For example, International Textile Group has formed the Automotive Safety business unit, soon to be the company’s largest division, and invested $35 million in its Richmond Plant in Cordova, N.C., to establish a one-piece woven air bag operation.

Glen Raven Inc. is moving forward with plans for the combination of its operations with The Astrup Co. and John Boyle & Co., signing and closing merger agreements through which Astrup and Boyle have become wholly-owned subsidiaries of Glen Raven.

There are companies like ARmark™ Authentication Technologies, a division of Adhesives Research, which is using Hills Inc.’s man-made fiber technology to offer brand protection — yes, they can spin an identifier, a logo for instance, inside the cross-section of a fiber and create a difficult-to-counterfeit product.

In the wake of China’s growth, some US companies simply couldn’t adapt quickly enough, and others continue to struggle, but don’t count the US industry out. There are US companies getting it right, finding underserved markets, innovating more quickly with marketable solutions and even investing
in the future.

May/June 2007