By  on June 16, 1994

TAMIMENT, Pa. -- The domestic textile industry, starving for any amount of good news about its future, got at least a small portion on Wednesday from two giant retailers.

Executives from Wal-Mart Stores and J.C. Penney Co. said as the firms continue to expand globally, they're going to search for more top-notch domestic suppliers to service their sourcing needs.

The Wal-Mart executive, after his talk, even said the chain wants to build closer relationships with U.S. fabric suppliers.

In addressing about 350 mill and converter executives at the annual convention of the Textile Distributors Association at Tamiment Resort and Conference center here, John Lupo, Wal-Mart's senior vice president and general merchandise manager for apparel, and W. Barger Tygart, Penney's executive vice president and director of merchandising support operations, said as those two retailers set up more operations around the world, their customers will want U.S.-made goods.

Still, mills and converters were cautioned that the only way they would be considered for that business would be to make top-quality products at the most competitive prices possible, and to ship them quickly.

"The media has given us a lot of heat for the Made in the USA campaign, but where we've been able to go with U.S.-made products, we have," Lupo said. "However, we need to be a price leader. The real issue is what the consumer thinks of our prices. We are not the fashion leaders, but we do want to give our customers better domestic products whenever available."

On the expansion front, Lupo said Wal-Mart is planning to open eight more stores in Mexico this year and 14 more Sam's Warehouse Clubs there. Wal-Mart currently has three stores and 10 Sam's in Mexico. The increased number of stores, he said, will make it necessary to go with suppliers that can service Wal-Mart in a timely manner.

"We apply a lot of pressure on our domestic suppliers and they have learned to accept it," Lupo told the gathering. "But we also pay more for U.S.-made goods where we feel it's beneficial. We are not flag-wavers, but we try to do the right thing."

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