CHA URGES CHANGES
Byline: Marilyn Nason
WILMINGTON, N.C. — Moving the state’s hosiery industry into out-of-the-box strategies, encouraging major retailers to adopt hosiery standards and uniting the industry to assure growth emerged as the goals of the Carolina Hosiery Association at its annual retreat held here last month.
Hosiery makers and suppliers were repeatedly urged to try unconventional thinking to solve industry problems, creating a well-defined path for the next century.
Warning that the industry has never experienced major changes as fast as it is now, Marcus King, an executive at the University of North Carolina’s Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC), encouraged them to prepare for the year 2000 or “you will go out of existence.”
Determining a company’s place in the market in relation to its competitors and looking beyond creative planning to new capabilities are key objectives in today’s business climate, stated R. Daniel Parks, director of the SBTDC.
Attendees at the retreat spent several hours in workshops discussing global marketing, competition, the advantages of private label, sourcing, customer service, new technology, workforce shortages and social values in relation to local, state and federal regulations.
Industry standards — another hot topic — must be sought by major retailers, attendees said. J.C. Penney was singled out as a prime example and perfect industry model of a major retailer that has developed its own set of strict standards with suppliers.
Stores were encouraged to get involved now in the development of industry-wide standards that will help them market hosiery — not as a commodity but as a fashion. Attendees also suggested developing standards for EDI.
Paul Fogleman, executive director of the CHA, said North Carolina State University is now working to develop and set standards for the industry. Once created, a certification testing center would be developed to implement those standards.
Daniel Saint Louis, director of the CHA’s hosiery technology centers in Asheboro and Burlington, N.C., oversaw a brainstorming session about the future of such centers. With the support of North Carolina Secretary of Commerce Rick Carlisle, the CHA is lobbying to have the technology centers under the jurisdiction of the Commerce Department. That would expand their training potential, Saint Louis said.
“Industry teachers constantly need training and so do workers to be able to operate these machines,” he said. “The industry and consumers are demanding newer production methods and products in hosiery at a constant speed. It’s almost impossible to keep training at the same level of demand.”
On another front, hosiery makers said the labor shortage has become a serious concern throughout the state. In addition, there are more employees who do not speak English. To deal with that, instructional computer programs about hosiery production have been developed in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Hmong.
Bringing the industry together — a consistent theme throughout the conference — was highlighted by executives’ aim to form a closer cooperative alliance between the CHA and the National Association of Hosiery Manufacturers. The CHA hopes to see such an effort “more clearly defined” by the end of the year, Fogleman said.