Outlook for the US Textile Industry in 2014

In its latest industry analysis report, the Textile World (TW) presents a fairly optimistic outlook for the US textile industry in year 2014. According to the report:

  • Output of the US textile mills may increase 2 percent for basic products like fibers, yarns and fabrics; more highly fabricated items like industrial textiles could achieve an even higher growth rate.
  • US Imports of textiles may continue the pattern of flatness (i.e. limited growth) over the next 12 months whereas exports of US-made textiles will remain modest growth. As results, the US textile industry may see some fractional decline in trade deficit in the year ahead.
  • US textile mills may avoid meaningful upward fiber cost pressure, which includes cotton, rayon staple, acrylic staple, textured nylon and polyester.  High cotton stock level worldwide and the weak demand for natural gas and petroleum are cited as the two major reasons for the minimum price change.   
  • As another encouraging sign, the operating rate (production as a percentage of capacity) in the US textile industry has rebounded to above 70% which is accompanied with a robust growth of capital investment. As quoted in the report “US textile mills spent more than $1 billion each year to replace obsolete facilities and to take advantage of new, state of the art technology aimed at turning out new products and increasing overall efficiency”.
  • In terms of the job market, the picture seems to be mixed. Productivity growth as results of capitalization both reduces the real production cost as well as the overall demand for labor. According to the report, labor had only accounted for 19% of textile mills revenue dollars in 2013, implying the highly capital-intensive nature of the industry.
  • Additionally, the rising demand for product innovation and improvement create brightening growth opportunities for the US textile industry. According to the TW report, US consumers seem willing to pay a premium for “pluses functions” of the fabrics. Some 50 percent said they’d pay extra for wrinkle resistance, 51 percent for stain protection, 50 percent for easy care, 46 percent for fade resistance, and 45 percent for stretch. A number of US firms are further weaving sophisticated electronic extras into the fabric of garment sensors that can monitor a variety of personal vital signs.

Other highlighted issues to watch in 2014 include: made-in-USA factor, improved supply chain management, energy cost advantage and government policy support.

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Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

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