Byline: M. McN.

NEW YORK — Raw materials prices may be the greatest cause of anguish among knitters this year, but it’s the ability to compete in a global market that will spell their future success or failure.
That’s the word from Peter Frank, incoming president of the Knitted Textile Association, whose 180 members produce about 90 percent of all knitted fabrics made in the U.S.
Frank, who assumes his two-year post next week at the KTA’s annual convention at Aventura, Fla., succeeds Ellen Green Shifrin, vice president of Andrex Industries.
With GATT and the North American Free Trade Agreement transforming the world into one large market, knitters must become more involved in global distribution, Frank said, in discussing his goals for the KTA.
“As an association, we’re going to help our diversified membership successfully do business across the world,” said Frank, divisional manager in Malden Mills’ apparel fabrics unit, interviewed at the company’s sales and marketing offices here. Malden has been one of the more successful exporters, generating about 30 percent of its $200 million-plus in apparel fabric sales through exports.
“The term ‘export or die’ has been thrown around a lot within our organization, but that’s really the main marching order that we as an association have for the next year or so,” Frank said.
To assist in building exports, Frank said the KTA is working to establish a joint effort to exhibit fabrics at foreign trade shows, giving individual firms a chance to show off their diverse offerings.
“We’ve tried in the past to get an export group started, but it hasn’t worked,” Frank said. When this was tried a couple of years ago, there wasn’t enough interest generated among individual firms, he said.
“Now, as exporting becomes so important, we need to get something like that off the ground,” he said.
“Niche marketing is the key to exporting,” Frank added. “You can’t do it successfully if you’re going to concentrate on basic poly/cotton jersey.
Frank is quick to point out that the association isn’t going to get involved in individual firms’ strategies. As an organization, the KTA must be deliberate as to what extent it helps specific companies.
“As an association, we can’t get drawn into people’s businesses,” Frank said. “We’ll guide them as to what we think can make an overall impact on the market.
“I think that in any business temperature, some people will succeed more than others,” he added. “You have to make things the whole world isn’t making and make them better than anyone else.”
While the KTA focuses on expanding international marketing and distribution, Frank said it’s also important that the KTA improve and increase its scholarship program, one that it developed two years ago.
The KTA awards two four-year college scholarships of $1,000 per year to students who are in a textile-oriented course of study and who have a parent working for a member firm.
“We have to understand that it’s very difficult for us and our industry to attract good young quality people,” Frank said. “We’d like to try and enlarge the contribution from firms as we go along.”