Lace and Warp Knit Fabric Mills

SIC 2258

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

Establishments in this category are primarily engaged in knitting, dyeing, or finishing warp (flat) knit fabrics; or in manufacturing, dyeing, or finishing lace goods. Products in this category include lace bed sets; lace covers for chairs, dressers, pianos, and tables; curtains and lace curtain fabrics; lace edgings; knit netting; warp knit pile fabrics; and tricot fabrics.

According to Dun and Bradstreet, 182 establishments were engaged in the production of lace or warp knit fabrics in the late 2000s and the industry employed 6,758 workers. Most businesses were small, with about 77 percent employing fewer than 25 people. New York had the most establishments in this industry, with 34, followed by California with 23 and North Carolina with 20. Florida and New Jersey had the fourth and fifth most businesses, respectively. However, North Carolina was by far the top state in terms of revenue, accounting for $142.4 million, or about 32 percent of the total $447.4 million of sales in the industry. Florida was second with $106.3 million in sales, followed distantly by Rhode Island with $38.9 million, South Carolina with $29.3 million, and New York with $28.8 million.

In the late 2000s, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 69,070 people were employed by the fabric mills industry overall, 63 percent of whom were production workers earning an average wage of $13.22 per hour. Employees worked as sewing machine operators, textile draw-out and winding machine workers, hand packers and packagers, inspectors, laborers, industrial machinery mechanics, textile bleaching and dyeing machine workers, hand workers, textile machine setters and set-up operators, blue-collar worker supervisors, general managers, top executives, and freight and stock handlers. Employment in the textile and fabric finishing mills industry was expected to continue dropping into the mid-2010s.

Warp, or flat, knitting machines look like weaving machines but produce fabrics more like those produced on circular knitting machines. Warp knit is a specialized fabric made by a process in which nylon, acetate, and polyester yarns are run lengthwise in the fabric, forming interlocking loops. The cost, compared to that of circular knit techniques, is relatively low.

In the 1980s, a slump in clothing sales and a growing flood of inexpensive imports slowed growth in this industry considerably. Throughout the mid-1990s, domestic manufacturers remained competitive by introducing new specialty fabrics, such as microdeniers and spandex blends. Microdenier fabrics are stretchy and have a high filament count that gives them a silky feel. Introduced by Guilford Mills Inc. in 1991, this fabric quickly gained a niche market in the warp knit industry. By the late 1990s, the market for spandex blends had grown markedly. Spandex was being used in a wide range of warp knit fabrics: foundation garments, swimwear, active wear, lace, hosiery, and medical supplies/clothing. Other popular products included woven fabrics with two-way stretch; sheer fabrics in the 15-, 20-, and 30-denier range; high-denier fabrics for foundation and control garments, blends with Tencel microdenier and acrylic, and performance fabrics with UV resistance and thermal and antimicrobal properties. In 1999, Malden Mills Industries Inc. and Patagonia Inc. introduced Polartech Regulator, a high-performance fleece designed for people to use in the backcountry. One variety of the new fabric featured polyester yarns in a warp knit design. The two companies also had cooperated 13 years earlier to introduce the first polar fleece fabrics for outdoor enthusiasts.

During the mid-1990s the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) opened new markets for the textile industry but also increased foreign competition. Some U.S. textile companies began opening facilities in other countries. For example, in 1994 Guilford Mills had production plants in the United Kingdom and part-ownership in the largest warp knitting company in Mexico. In 1998 Guilford Mills bought land for another Mexican operation, a textile manufacturing complex that would later supply fabric for an apparel assembly enterprise on the same site. In general, however, despite efforts to expand operations overseas, U.S. textile mills in the 2000s continued to struggle with increased foreign competition. For example, imported goods from China alone totaled $69 million in 2005, up from $39 million the previous year.

In the first decade of the twenty-first century, textile imports from China flooded the U.S. market, driving down domestic sales and prices and causing thousands of job cuts in the apparel and textile industry. In 2005, the United States and China reached a three-year agreement that was meant to limit growth on Chinese-produced textiles. Based on the previous year's figures, Chinese textile imports could increase 10 to 15 percent in 2006, 12.5 to 16 percent in 2007, and 15 to 17 percent in 2008. In 2008, the National Committee of Textile Organizations and other industry organizations lobbied Congress for a new import-monitoring program on Chinese products. The respective governments held meetings on the issue in mid-2009, but no agreement was reached. However, some industry experts in the United States expressed optimism based on July 2009 figures that showed textile imports from China were down 12 percent from the previous year.

In the late 2000s, one of the largest companies in this category was Guilford Mills Inc. of Wilmington, North Carolina. Due to increased competition from imports and a sluggish U.S. economy, the firm filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2002, from which it emerged later in the year. As part of its restructuring, the company shifted its focus from apparel fabrics to automotive fabrics. In 2004 the firm was purchased by New York-based private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management for about $98 million. Guilford Mills had 2,600 employees and annual sales of about $446 million in the mid-2000s.

Other leaders in the industry included Mount Vernon Mills Inc. of Mauldin, South Carolina, with $500 million in 2008 sales and 3,800 employees; Fab Industries Inc., of Great Neck, which had 2008 sales of $14.7 million; Mohican Mills Inc. of Lincolnton, North Carolina; and H. Warshow and Sons Inc. of Tappahannock, Virginia.

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News and information about Lace and Warp Knit Fabric Mills

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...code Knit fabric mills 31324 Weft knit fabric mills 313241 Primary...Weft (circular) knit fabrics greige 313241...weft (circular) knit fabrics, except...knit fabric and lace mills 313249 Primary...P Nonapparel warp ...

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