Knit Outerwear Mills

SIC 2253

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

Products manufactured under this category include such diverse products as bathing suits, bathrobes, beachwear, blouses, body stockings, caps, collar and cuff sets, dresses, hats, headwear, housecoats, jackets, jerseys and sweaters, jogging suits, leotards, lounging robes, mufflers, neckties, pants, scarves, shawls, shirts, outerwear, shoulderettes, ski suits, skirts, slacks, suits, sweat bands, sweat pants, sweat shirts, sweaters and sweater coats, t-shirts, tank tops, ties, trousers, warm-up suits, and wristlets.

Industry Snapshot

In 2009, the knit outerwear industry's estimated 1,116 establishments posted sales of about $5.4 billion with about 26,894 employees. North Carolina led with more than $4.2 billion in sales, followed distantly by California with $420 million and New York with $337 million. Comprised of almost 30 different specialties, the primary segment in terms of revenues was t-shirts and tops. In second and third place, respectively, were sweaters/sweater coats and knit shirts. Other top-selling categories included scarves/mufflers, hats/headwear, and bathing suits/swimwear. Companies in this industry tended to be small with 69 percent employing fewer than 20 workers and only 8 percent with more than 100 employees.

The U.S. Department of Labor's May 2008 report on the apparel knitting mills industry estimated 63 percent of workers were employed in production, with the production field dominated by knitting and weaving machine setters, operators, and tenders (5,390 workers with a $10.79 mean hourly wage) and sewing machine operators (3,930 workers with a $9.42 mean hourly wage), whereas the 690 workers in management earned a mean hourly wage of $50.07. The lowest paid workers were sewing machine operators.

Dun and Bradstreet indicated in 2009 that the industry's estimated 1,116 establishments posted sales of about $5.4 billion with about 26,894 employees. North Carolina led with more than $4.2 billion in sales, followed distantly by California with $420 million and New York with $337 million. Comprised of almost 30 different specialties, the primary segment in terms of revenues was t-shirts and tops. In second and third place, respectively, were sweaters/sweater coats and knit shirts. Other top-selling categories included scarves/mufflers, hats/headwear, and bathing suits/swimwear.

The apparel industry suffered a general decline during the mid-2000s, as World Trade Organization (WTO) countries began to phase out their quotas on clothing and textiles. This was pursuant to the original accord among member countries that created the organization itself. However, job losses were expected to drop more than 5 percent annually by 2016.

In the late 2000s, many companies in the industry worked to capitalize on one of the fastest-growing product areas in the textile industry and the fastest-growing section of apparel textile products: leisure and active wear. Popular products in this market segment included t-shirts and golf shirts (knit shirts with collars) for men, women, and children.

Organization and Structure

While it was a generally accepted practice that companies in the weaving business are fully integrated to produce their own yarn requirements, it is a general rule that knitting companies are not fully integrated and must buy their required yarn. In the early twenty-first century, most manufacturers of knit products required so many different types of yarn that it was not economically feasible for them to produce it themselves. Notable exceptions to this practice in the knitting sector were the largest companies in the industry, including Sara Lee Corp. Larger companies could produce their own yarn because they could confine specific products to certain plants and invest in modern yarn manufacturing machinery and equipment. In addition, while producing more than most other knitting companies, larger companies did not produce as many types of products. One similarity between large and diversified companies and the knitting companies that were not integrated was that knitting operations were not housed in the same buildings as yarn manufacturing operations. However, dyeing and finishing of knit fabrics were usually located in the same plant with the knitting operation.

In the early 2000s, Sara Lee's Mountain City plant produced more than 1 million pounds of 100 percent cotton yarn for the company's Hanes Beefy-T t-shirt products every week. Not only was the plant modern in terms of its machinery and equipment, it also employed state-of-the-art electronic information systems technology and the latest in management techniques. At the fully automated plant, bales of cotton were manually unloaded from the delivery trucks, but no one touched any part of the product after that until palletized cartons of yarn were ready to be put back on the same trucks for shipment to Sara Lee's knitting plants.

The Mountain City plant also was fully computer-integrated. A computerized network system monitored each machine for quality, production, and efficiency. A series of alarms and shut-down capabilities alerted teams if problems occurred.

The unique management technique at Mountain City broke industry norms. There were no supervisors except the plant manager. The plant operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with two 12-hour shifts. Each shift had two 20-person teams that were responsible for each half of the plant. These teams patrolled operations, monitored electronic information systems, and controlled the manufacturing facility. Teams hired and fired team members and participated in extensive training in such areas as problem solving and consensus decision-making. All employees were salaried and were given business cards. As a symbol of ownership, a tree was planted on the plant's property with each employee's name recorded on a nearby plaque. In addition, all employees were paid an incentive bonus based on plant production and quality as evaluated at the knitting plant.

The two broad categories of knitting machines that produced the products in this classification are circular and flat. Circular machines are much more prominent in this category because flat machines generally are used in the production of sweaters.

Background and Development

While the basic principles of knitting have not changed over the years, the recent use of electronic technology has tremendously enhanced the process. The most prominent infusion of electronics has been use of CAD/CAM (computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing) systems. The best-known system was manufactured by Monarch Design Systems, which produced a system that increased creativity, productivity, and versatility. Products designed to be knit on an electronic knitting machine were transferred onto a 3.5-inch disk and loaded on a Macintosh computer. The disc was then transferred to the knitting machine by a loading device on the knitting floor. This innovation, like new electronic processes in weaving, enabled processes that once took weeks to be completed in hours or even minutes.

Another form of electronics used in the knitting industry was a program for monitoring performance of the process as well as production of the product. One such system was STARFISH ("start as you intend to finish"), developed by Manchester, England-based Cotton Technology International. STARFISH was a set of computer programs that related the properties and dimensions of a knitted cotton fabric to the knitting parameters and the finishing route. By using such programs, manufacturers and buyers could quickly calculate the performance of the most popular fabric constructions after dyeing and finishing. Thus, major savings in development time and money were achieved and decision-making was enhanced.

The knitting industry also took advantage of the textile industry's advances to use technology to control costs. The American Textile Partnership (AMTEX) collaborated on many projects to increase efficiency, including fostering research and development between the integrated U.S. textile industry and national laboratories. The Demand Activated Manufacturing Architecture (DAMA) project developed a communications system between the textile industry and the consumer. The rapid communication allowed the industry to respond quickly to changes in the marketplace with appropriate manufacturing processes and inventories, thereby cutting overall costs.

Although the use of leisure and active wear increased in the late 1990s, competition from exports began to undercut business for U.S. industry leaders. The value of industry shipments fell from $4.35 billion in 1997 to $2.91 billion in 2000. As a result, the number of employees in the industry fell from 40,154 in 1997 to 28,250 in 2000. The weakening of the North American economy at the beginning of the twenty-first century also undermined the performance of industry leaders, and the industry experienced a significant decline in the number of establishments between 2002 (399 establishments) and 2007 (177 establishments) as well as a huge reduction in its workforce (14,299 employees to 5,599 employees). Value of shipments also plummeted, from $4.3 billion in 2002 to $901.2 million in 2007.

The entire fabric and apparel industry suffered a major, but expected, setback when all previous import quotas were removed for WTO member countries on January 1, 2005. By that year, the United States was importing more than 50 percent of all apparel sold domestically. In order to compensate for the influx of imported outerwear products, domestic manufacturers implemented several fundamental changes. These included consolidation, outsourcing, and domestic technological development. The busiest year in decades for mergers and acquisitions was 2003. Jones Apparel, Liz Claiborne, and Kellwood acquired smaller niche businesses to expand their offerings, with a disclosed value of all merger deals exceeding $3.5 billion.

With more than 4,000 stores offering a wide variety of apparel falling within this industry in the mid-2000s, Wal-Mart's annual clothing and footwear budget alone was $35 billion.

Textile and apparel imports from China flooded the U.S. market with a 22 percent share of the apparel market in 2005 for a growth rate exceeding 185 percent, which drove down domestic sales and prices and eliminated 12,000 apparel and textile jobs in the United States. The fiber-producing sector of the U.S. textile industry joined with labor unions in early 2005 to petition the U.S. government to limit damages by invoking the WTO safeguard mechanism that had been incorporated in the WTO agreement and would allow China to continue to expand its exports to the United States while limiting growth. By the end of 2005, a three-year agreement had been reached to suppress the growth rates to 10 percent in 2006, 12.5 percent in 2007, and 15 percent in 2008.

Current Conditions

Apparel imports from China did not appear to be slowing down as the first decade of the twenty-first century neared a close. In fact, in September 2008, China accounted for a record 43 percent of all U.S. apparel imports. This was a significant increase from March of that year, when 20 percent of imported apparel came from China.

The U.S. outerwear industry continued to look for ways to reduce overseas competition and the flood of imports into the country. In July 2009, new legislation was introduced that proposed to eliminate tariffs on imports of outdoor performance apparel into the United States and fund research into sustainable manufacturing technology. The U.S. Optimal Use of Trade to Develop Outerwear and Outdoor Recreation (OUTDOOR) Act was proposed following findings in 2007 by the International Trade Commission that showed there was no commercially viable production of recreational performance outerwear in the United States.

In 2009, this industry segment was valued at over $5 billion, just a portion of the approximately $28.8 billion for the overall apparel industry in 2008. The United States imported $76.2 billion worth of apparel from 213 countries. Exports totaled $4.3 billion and were shipped to 182 countries. Total domestic demand reached $100.7 billion.

Industry Leaders

In September 2006, former industry leader Sara Lee spun off its apparel division to a separate, publicly traded company known as Hanesbrands Inc. Hanesbrands, based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, had 2008 sales of $4.2 billion and 45,200 employees. Despite these impressive figures, Hanesbrands closed several plants in the latter half of the 2000s and eliminated almost 10 percent of its workforce. In the first quarter of 2009, sales for the company fell 13 percent, and more layoffs were planned.

VF Corp., based in Greensboro, North Carolina, was the world's largest apparel company in the late 2000s, with $7.6 billion in 2008 sales and 46,600 employees. In 2004, VF acquired Vans Inc. (general sportswear apparel) and Reef Holdings Corp. for surfers. Other items made by VF included Lee and Wrangler jeans, North Face and Eagle Creek outdoor wear, and men's and women's apparel brands Nautica and John Varvatos.

Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, Russell Corp. specialized in athletic and active wear and posted 2008 revenues of $561 million with a workforce of 14,400. In 2006, Russell became a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, maker of the Fruit of the Loom brand.

© COPYRIGHT 2018 The Gale Group, Inc. This material is published under license from the publisher through the Gale Group, Farmington Hills, Michigan. All inquiries regarding rights should be directed to the Gale Group. For permission to reuse this article, contact the Copyright Clearance Center.

News and information about Knit Outerwear Mills

Research and Markets Adds Report: Outerwear Knitting Mills Industry.(Report)
Health & Beauty Close-Up; June 23, 2010; 686 words
...finishing knit outerwear. Examples of products made in knit outerwear mills are shirts, shorts, sweat suits, sweaters, gloves...31-33). Its SIC equivalent codes are: 2253 - Knit Outerwear Mills (except bath and lounging robes and dying and finish...
Monthly sector analysis: this sector analysis includes acquisitions and buyouts announced during march. uk public offers completed between these dates are included, whereas new and pending offers are excluded. the transactions are classified according to the us sic code identifying the industry sector in which the target company is principally engaged.(Illustration)
Acquisitions Monthly; April 1, 2003; 700+ words
...Manufacture animal and Roxford (US) - marine fats Investment company 22: TEXTILE AND APPAREL PRODUCTS 2253: Knit outerwear mills Mountain Hardwear Inc Columbia Sportswear Co 36.00 13-Mar-03 (US) - Manufacture, (US) - Manufacture...
Contract Notice: Department of Justice (District Of Columbia) Issues Solicitation for Outerwear Knit Mills
US Fed News Service, Including US State News; October 4, 2011; 323 words
WASHINGTON, Oct. 13 -- Department of Justice, Federal Prison Industries/UNICOR has a requirement for outerwear knit mills. The solicitation no. CT2065-11 was posted on October 3, 2011. All responses are due by Oct 13, 2011 2...
Research and Markets Adds Report: Outerwear Knitting Mills Industry.(Report)
Health & Beauty Close-Up; June 23, 2010; 686 words
...report "Outerwear Knitting Mills Industry in the U.S...following: (1) knitting outerwear; (2) knitting fabric and manufacturing outerwear; and (3) knitting, manufacturing, and finishing knit outerwear. Examples of products...
Monthly sector analysis: this sector analysis includes acquisitions and buyouts announced during march. uk public offers completed between these dates are included, whereas new and pending offers are excluded. the transactions are classified according to the us sic code identifying the industry sector in which the target company is principally engaged.(Illustration)
Acquisitions Monthly; April 1, 2003; 700+ words
...Investment company 22: TEXTILE AND APPAREL PRODUCTS 2253: Knit outerwear mills Mountain Hardwear Inc Columbia Sportswear Co 36.00...products 26: PAPER AND ALLIED PRODUCTS 2621: Paper mills Great Northern Paper Brascan Corp (CA) - 103.00...
Table 3. Producer price indexes for the net output of selected industries and their products, 2005 (1).(Part 2)
PPI Detailed Report; January 1, 2005; 700+ words
...Tire cord & tire fabric mills 314992 Primary products...miscellaneous textile product mills 314999 Primary products...Recovered fibers, processed mill waste, and related products...315 Apparel knitting mills 3151 Hosiery & sock mills...receipts 315119-SM Outerwear knitting ...
Nano-Tex Adds Knits, Outerwear to Its Performance Apparel Roster.
Internet Wire; May 10, 2005; 700+ words
...selling Nano-Tex enhanced knit polos in multiple colors...youth line of performance knit polos later this year...rolling out Nano-Tex knit polos in a range of colors...Not only are polos and outerwear new categories for Nano...more than 80 textile mills worldwide are utilizing...
Knit machinery execs agree '85 will not meet '84 sales. (Weaving '85 supplement)
Daily News Record; March 4, 1985; 700+ words
...business. All the major mills upgraded their single-knit equipment. In one case...replaced its old single-knit equipment 100 per cent...demand is for single-knit machines that handle...leisure and fashioned outerwear, and replacing old rib...

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