Knit Underwear and Nightwear Mills

SIC 2254

Industry report:

This category covers those establishments primarily engaged in knitting underwear and nightwear from yarn or in manufacturing underwear and nightwear from knit fabrics produced in the same establishment. Companies primarily engaged in manufacturing underwear and nightwear from purchased knit fabrics are classified in the Major Industry Group 23 (apparel and other finished products made from fabrics and similar materials). Those establishments that produce knitted robes are classified in SIC 2253: Knit Outerwear Mills.

Products manufactured by companies in this classification include underwear briefs and knitted underwear drawers, night gowns, negligees, knit pajamas, ladies' and girls' panties, undershirts, T-shirts used as undershirts (both V-neck and regular neck), slips, and union suits or long (winter) underwear.

Only 20 establishments were engaged in the knitting of underwear and nightwear in the late 2000s. Those establishments shipped about $488.6 million worth of products in 2008. Total employees in the industry numbered 829, of which 652 were production workers. Top-producing states in this category were California, Pennsylvania, Texas, New York, and North Carolina, according to Dun and Bradstreet's 2009 Industry Reports..

Almost all products in this category are made on circular knitting machines. Most men's and boys' underwear is made from 100 percent cotton or cotton-polyester blends. Traditionally, most women's and girls' underwear had been produced from nylon, with silk used as somewhat of a luxury item, but by the 1990s the trend in women's underwear was to use cotton. Another trend that carried over into the twenty-first century was modeling women's lines after men's cotton briefs.

The American Apparel & Footwear Association reported that U.S. production of cotton underwear in 2007 was 14.6 million garments. U.S. consumption equaled 179.3 million garments; thus, almost 92 percent of the products in this category (164.7 million garments) were imported. This followed the trend of the apparel industry in general, which saw increasing numbers of imports from overseas, especially China, throughout the first decade of the twenty-first century. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce's Office of Textiles and Apparel, categories of the apparel industry that experienced the highest import penetration in the late 2000s included cotton bras, nightwear, and pajamas.

Among the leading underwear companies, Jockey International Inc., of Kenosha, Wisconsin, had annual revenues of approximately $550 million and employed 5,000 workers. Jockey, founded in 1876, licensed and distributed underwear products in more than 120 countries. Fruit of the Loom Inc., which was acquired by Berkshire Hathaway in 2002, was headquartered in Bowling Green, Kentucky, but manufactured much of its product in Central America. In the 2000s, Fruit of the Loom had annual revenues of about $1.3 billion and employed more than 22,000 workers. Hanesbrands Inc. of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was another significant player. The firm was spun off parent company Sara Lee in 2006, and in 2008, had almost $4.3 billion in sales and 45,200 employees. Another industry leader was Maidenform Brands Inc. of Iselin, New Jersey, with 2008 sales of $413.5 million and 1,120 employees.

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