Outlook of the U.S. Textile Industry in 2013

The latest industry outlook proposed by the Textile World argues that in 2013 the U.S. textile industry will improve industry strategy and planning in the following areas:

  • increased management emphasis in such areas as sourcing, inventory control
  • use of more flexible and efficient machinery and equipment
  • new and upgraded consumer products,
  • more ecologically friendly offerings
  • more Made-in-USA labels

 Don’t misunderstand/misinterpret these terms. The proposed strategies actually tell us:

1. the U.S. textile industry will become even more capitalized in production (as the result of “using more flexible and efficient machinery and equipment”).

2. the success of the U.S. textile industry relies on import (that’s why “management of sourcing” is suggested to be emphasized), despite the intension to promote “made in USA” label which has more to do with the current “rules of origin” defining the nationality of the products.

3. the softgoods industry (textile, apparel and related retailing) is a highly buyer-driven industry. Even textile mills have realized the importance of understanding and directly reaching the consumers.

4. sustainability is a major factor driving technical reform and upgrading in the textile industry. Other than the environmental concerns, there is another strategy behind the efforts: when the U.S. textile industry is fully ready to “be able to produce in a sustainable way”, it will ask for legislation support to require “everybody”(including imported products) to meet the same environmental standards(professionally, we call it “technical barriers of trade”). Developing countries can compete on price, but definitely cannot compete on technology and capital which are the basis of achieving “sustainability”.  Bu then, you will see sustainability becomes a real game changer.     

 Another relevant forecast made by the article “But holding these costs down through efficiency gains can also have a negative impact —namely, a smaller industry workforce. In the textile sector, for instance, squeezed by productivity gains, overall employment should drop from 232,000 in 2012 to near 209,000 by 2015.” As we menioned in the class, technology kills jobs too, although new types of jobs will be created at the same time–but with totally different skill requirements.

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Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

7 thoughts on “Outlook of the U.S. Textile Industry in 2013”

  1. When first reading the proposed improvements of the textile industry in 2013 they seem great! Then when you take a closer look and really read into what they’re proposing, it unfortunately, isn’t as great as it seems. The use of more efficient and flexible machinery has pros and cons for the industry. Yes, it would be great to have better machines and technology, but technology ultimately diminishes jobs as well. I’m sure that new jobs will be created because that is how cause and effect usually occurs, but these new jobs will have a whole new skills set that people working in this industry will have to learn. Creating more ecologically friendly offerings is a very positive aspect for our environment and resources. Let’s face it, our resources are not expendable and our environment is suffering and something needs to be done…and fast. I think it’s great that the textile industry is going to become more ecological, but this article shined a light on a more negative aspect of ecologically friendly offerings. “It will ask for legislation support to require “everybody”(including imported products) to meet the same environmental standards(professionally, we call it “technical barriers of trade”). Developing countries can compete on price, but definitely cannot compete on technology and capital which are the basis of achieving “sustainability”. If countries like China can’t produce ecologically clothing I can’t imagine how this will effect the industry! Everything will change, but will it be for the better or for the worse?

    1. I just hope student can see the multiple aspects of an issue. For example, sustainability. It is a technical issue, but also involves complicated business, economic and political concerns. Almost all topics we discussed in this class are the same.

  2. All of these efforts can be considered both good news and bad news for the US textile and apparel industry. It is good news that these aspects are being formally acknowledged as areas of interest for improvement, however, time and money (the inevitable duo) will be spent hardest trying to solve them. The US becoming more capitalized in production means more expensive machinery to complete jobs in faster time, and therefore yield a product faster. This directly affects jobs being held that the machinery will replace. The problem in our country is that we do not have many people who are studying mediocre job skills for a career such as basic factory work, and then we have the elitist character who will never step foot any where near a factory unless it is to bulldoze it to build a restaurant. Low skilled jobs will be replaced by jobs such as engineering, mechanics, robotics, math, and possibly physics. Does an abundance of these workers exist in our population? Next, we want better control and more satisfying sourcing. We want better products, received faster, for the lowest price. This has to do with our TPP issues. Once products are imported into the US, we have the rule of origin issue which is weighing heavily on the progression of the Made in the USA reputation. Third, it is good that the softgoods industry realizes that reaching the ultimate consumer is valuable because it will save time and money during production. The more a vertical retailer or manufacturer knows about its consumer, the less time they have to waste producing and testing products that they are unsure of having success at the point of sale. Sustainability is a concept that will only come full circle if every participating party is willing to make an effort. Sustaining the planet will not happen overnight and legislation is the first step toward banning unsafe activity, inefficient practices, and start improving the global condition.

    1. excellent comment. “Does an abundance of these workers exist in our population?” of course, this is why we see a widening gap of income level & oppertunity of employment between those with advanced degree and those with only high school degree in the soceity. The high unemployment rate among the youth is particuarlly worrisome. It won’t be a quick fix however, but again investment in education becomes much more strategically important to secure a promising career in the 21st century.

  3. I was impressed to read that the US textile industry plans to become more capitalized in production. We have discussed in class how the US is more capital intensive than labor intensive. I think it is a wise idea to make this transition. We could also use the capital abundance towards production in terms of machinery. Although I believe the future innovation of machinery in a production basis will be more time and cost efficient, this concerns me with the job market. I fear that the future of machinery doing all the work will take the places of jobs that people currently hold. Unemployment is so prominent right now I would hate to see it rise with the use of machinery. I was pleased to read how sustainability will become a more important factor in the textile industry. The sustainability movement in the US has yet be taken into great effect. Sustainability has so many positive outcomes it is disappointing to see how not all industry participants are on board. Hopefully this prediction will be accurate in terms of the sustainability movement.

  4. Each idea has both positive and negative affects on the USA. The main concern is jobs for Americans. With an increase in machine and equipment it makes for faster production but less jobs. The US will become more capital driven. The “made in USA” are important because it brings the jobs to the USA however, the guidelines on what is considered “made in USA” needs to be monitored and changed to mostly made in the USA. Sustainability has also become an increasing issue globally but to get everyone on the bandwagon and producing in more eco-friendly ways, who knows if this is possible. The consumers need to be targeted for most of these issues because of the consumers are unhappy things will change because they drive the business and keep it alive. All the ideas are great I’m not sure if they are plausible.

  5. I would love to see the textile industry become more sustainable. This will indeed prove some difficulty if the US textile industry will then to push the demand for similar requirements on developing/underdeveloped countries. However, this is the very nature of capitalism. From #1, “The U.S. textile industry will become even more capitalized in production.” Other countries will be forced to compete with sustainable US policies anyway, as people will have more and more options to obtain more sustainable products. For example, I buy organic & sustainable food, and while at one point it was difficult to obtain it at a reasonable price because it was not very in demand, now it is relatively easy and much more affordable for me to go to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s to pick up organic/sustainable options because there is a higher demand for them. Will this prove exceedingly difficult for countries that have poor working and environmental conditions such as China? Probably. But they will be forced to clean up and meet our standards if they wish to be competitive in the market.

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