By and  on December 28, 2004

NEW YORK — Next year will bring a sea change to worldwide textile and garment sourcing, as the 148 nations of the World Trade Organization drop the quotas that have regulated trade for more than three decades.

The biggest hurdle many executives faced this year was ensuring that their companies were well positioned for the new era. Getting ready has been a particular problem for many domestic textile companies that have had continued liquidity problems in recent years.

Fiber and yarn companies also faced intense margin pressures as the rising price of oil pushed up costs, while apparel makers continued to deal with price deflation. Most fiber companies said they’ve been able to push through some degree of price hikes, though not enough to offset their rising costs.

Below, six top executives review 2004 and look at the year ahead. Rick Darling, president, Li & Fung USA Ltd.

Accomplishment: “As a company, I would say the launching of our brand business is our most notable accomplishment, though it does not affect our financial position for 2004 and has only a little effect on 2005. It sets a portion of our business on a very new course.”

Disappointment: “We have felt for a year now that China was going to be an uncertain situation and would be under restraints to some degree.”

Goal: “To get the brands into the market and to begin marketing these brands as major consumer labels.”John Heldrich, president and chief executive officer, Galey & Lord Inc.

Accomplishment: “Hands down, our biggest accomplishment is partnering with a new owner [Patriarch Partners]. That is allowing us to have a legitimate future. It’s like night and day. Instead of being immersed in survival and trying to figure out how to get to the next day, we’re now focused on how to thrive and where do we focus on solutions for our customers for their futures.”

Disappointment: “Any time you lose focus on what has brought success in the past, in this type of environment that we’re in, it will have impact quickly on results.”

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