TEXFI BACK IN KNIT BUSINESS WITH FLEECE

Byline: Michael McNamara

NEW YORK--Texfi Industries, which is re-entering the knitted fabric business after a 12-year hiatus through a newly established knit converting division, is making a collection of polar-type fleece its first offering.
The fabrics, which are primarily polyester and blends of polyester and other fibers, are being produced in two factories in the Far East, and are currently available for sampling, with shipments slated for the first quarter of 1995.
The company chose to make its return to knits with fleece because of what Andrew Parise Jr., Texfi's president and chief operating officer, calls "a tremendous opportunity to fill a void."
Fleece, a bellwether in the activewear and outerwear markets, Parise said, has been underdeveloped in the moderate sportswear and ready-to-wear areas.
"We aren't going to try and compete with Malden Mills and Dyersburg in the established markets, as they are the dominant players there," said Parise, who, along with Richard Levy, Texfi's director of knitted fabrics, outlined the company's plans last week during an interview at Texfi's sales and marketing offices here.
"When it comes to fleece, the fashion markets are undersupplied," claimed Levy, who joined Texfi in August, following a 14-month stint as director of sales and marketing for cotton knits at Andrex Industries. "We're going to be producing both solids and prints in a variety of weights. Fleece right now is a tremendously popular item, and we think we can capitalize on that."
Parise and Levy said Texfi decided to tackle the knit business as converters, rather than invest capital in machinery to be a domestic supplier. The executives said that by being a knit converter, Texfi can move quickly into fashion items.
The company exited the knit business in 1982, due to the overall collapse of the double-knit business, said Parise.
"When something becomes hot, or we see a trend, we can switch quickly," Levy said. "If we had to worry about producing it in our plants, we couldn't turn as quickly."
Texfi had been eyeing a return to the knit business for the past 18 months, Parise said, noting that the company had interviewed several candidates to head up the operation.
"But when Richard became available, we thought he was the right man for the job," said Parise, who added that the company waited until Levy left Andrex before contacting him. In addition to Andrex, Levy has been a knitted-fabric executive with Dan River, Ti-Caro, Guilford, the Alamac Knit division of WestPoint Pepperell (now known as WestPoint Stevens) and StevecoKnits.
Both executives said Texfi can expect to import between 1 million and 1.5 million yards of fabric for the first season, and hit between $5 million and $10 million in sales. They also said that within three years, the converting division can realize $25 million in sales.
For the fiscal year ended Oct. 29, 1993, Texfi had sales of $311.3 million, 60 percent in the company's finished fabrics division.
"I think there's an awful lot of potential in the novelty knit business," Levy said. "We just have to make sure we get in with the right products."

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