By  on September 29, 2005

MONTREAL — Gildan Activewear will begin to make clothing that carries its own label, a new direction from its traditional role of producing generic T-shirts for printers and wholesalers.

While the U.S. accounts for about 85 percent of Gildan's sales, the products will initially hit Canadian stores next year and will include T-shirts, sweatshirts, underwear and cotton socks, company president Glenn Chamandy said.

His goal is to triple annual sales to $1.5 billion by 2010, which would boost Gildan's workforce to 30,000 from 9,000, mostly in Honduras and the Dominican Republic.

Only 900 workers remain in Canada after the company closed two yarn-spinning plants in Quebec and Ontario at the end of March, affecting 285 workers and shifting production to Clarkton, N.C. The move is expected to save $4 million annually. The new U.S. plant is leased and operated by Gildan's yarn-spinning venture with Frontier Spinning Mills.

Gildan plans to use its low-cost manufacturing facilities to support its retail strategy of offering a better quality garment and better packaging at a better price, Chamandy said after a speech here on Monday.

He said the company's branded T-shirts will retail for less than $10 and a pack of six pairs of socks will sell for $6 or $7.

Gildan has $425 million in capital expenditures planned between now and 2009 to expand its existing operations, which will boost annual capacity to 100 million dozen T-shirts within five years from the current 32 million dozen.

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