MILLS: LONGER JULY 4 CLOSINGS

Byline: Michael McNamara

NEW YORK--Textile workers might be getting longer vacations next month as many mills extend their normal July 4 shutdown periods.
Citing excess inventory caused by both overprojections and overproduction, along with a soft retail climate, executives said the pipeline is clogged, a situation that is expected to last through the third quarter. The extended shutdowns--from a couple of extra days to a week for individual locations--are expected to help alleviate excess inventories.
The situation, they added, is accentuated by rising fiber prices, which have caused some mills to stop manufacturing certain goods as they've run into a virtual stone wall when trying to pass costs on.
"Right now we have lousy market conditions, and the success stories are few and far between," said a president of one woven fabric mill, requesting anonymity. "A lot of it is caused by the irrational thinking on the part of fiber companies. They're putting these [price] increases through without really stepping back on looking at what it's doing to our market."
His firm, he noted, is lengthening its usual one-week holiday by four days at one of its plants.
While the American Textile Manufacturers Institute does not keep statistics on mill shutdowns, a spokeswoman for the ATMI said the association "has been made aware by some members that there will be more vacation time this year than in past years."
The ATMI anticipates "roughly 40 percent" of its 250 mill members will be extending shutdowns, she said. These normally range from two days, including the Fourth of July holiday, to the entire week in which the holiday falls.
During the shutdown periods, hourly workers use their vacation periods. Those workers that don't have accrued vactation time, are eligilble for uenmmployment benefits.
Guilford Mills, Greensboro, the country's biggest producer of knit fabrics, is extending its traditional week-long shutdown for one of its dyehouses in Greensboro, closing it for an additional week. Guilford has six plants in its apparel fabrics division.
"The business for the products, warp knits for robewear and sleepwear, right now is soft," said Alfred Greenblatt, president of Guilford's apparel, home fashions and industrial business units.
"It was a case of getting business early without the reorders," Greenblatt said. Rising raw material prices and the uncertainty of pricing, he added, are among the pressures causing the shutdown.
A spokesman for Burlington Industries said all 41 of the firm's plants are taking normal vacation schedules, ranging from "a couple of days to a week."
"We do have the possibility of a couple of our synthetics plants in the Klopman division shutting down for a couple of extra days, but that's about it," he said. As reported, Burlington on June 8 pulled all Klopman product lines from the market for what the company called "price reevaluation," a response for the third round in polyester increases this year. Last Thursday, the company put those items back on sale, all at higher prices.
While the firm wouldn't divulge the percentage increase it put on each item, the majority of the products were polyester-containing fabrics.
"Normally, for the last few years, we have not shut down at all for the week of July 4," said John Cavanagh, vice president of CMI, a gray goods mills. "We are shutting one of our seven plants, but it's a large and important one. We're doing it simply because of the high inventory situation, which is caused by deferments.
In addition to having those customer-owned goods, Cavanagh said, the firm has a lot of unsold goods on hand. "We're now ending up with a lot of inventory, so the third quarter looks poor. Once the excess inventory gets used up, the fourth quarter could brighten. But excess inventory is the one thing the market doesn't need at the moment."
Some firms, though, are holding to their normal shutdown pattern, or even cutting it, but among these firms as well there is still some concern about oversupply.
Gerald Rodelli, executive vice president of Stonecutter Mills, said the company's plant at Spindale, N.C., will be shut for its "normal one-week closing beginning Monday July 3."
Stonecutter, a mill that produces fancy, novelty fabrics, has thus far been able to keep products moving into the pipeline, said Rodelli.
"The no-business bug has bitten all of us, some sooner, some later," Rodelli said, noting that while Stonecutter has found business somewhat slow, it offers 275 varieties of fabrics, thus generating more business than a mill producing "six or seven basic things."
"I'm more confident that things are going to turn around quicker because of the variety we offer," Rodelli said. "But it sure ain't been fun.
"My major concern is that companies that aren't well capitalized are going to have serious problems," Rodelli added. "The wall came down on everything across the board as stores just stopped buying."
Carl Rosen, president of JPS Converter and Industrial Corp., which last year shifted its product mix from basic fabrics to quicker-turn, shorter-run fashion fabrics, said, "If we didn't do it, I'd be shutting down for at least a week. Now, we're going to only close for July 3 and July 4." Last year, JPS shut down for the entire week of July 4, he said.

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