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TEX LINE BEGINS U.S. MARKET PUSH

Byline: Scott Malone

NEW YORK — Tex Line Associates Ltd., a Singapore-based sourcing company, is taking a crack at the U.S. market.
The 20-year-old firm, with $350 million in revenues, derived mainly from Europe, opened an office in the garment district here in February with a staff of two.
Those executives, president Michael Dahl and senior vice president of sales Deborah Vezan, are taking aim at customers such as “a company just getting involved in the import process,” Dahl explained.
“There are a lot of companies that still have predominantly U.S. production or are used to dealing with importers and want to take greater control over their sourcing,” he said, adding that the U.S. branch will focus on apparel vendors with revenues of $10 million to $200 million.
Through its Singapore headquarters, which coordinates all U.S. orders, as well as those emanating from Europe, and a network of 14 regional sourcing offices across Asia, the closely held company buys from a range of 300 factories.
Tex Line operates as a full-package contractor, offering everything from fabric buying and design to production and quality control to freight forwarding. It owns no factories.
“The components of a garment can come from four or five different countries and be made in another country,” explained Richard Phua, chief executive officer of the parent company’s Singapore-based 2BeSource.com division. “To manage all that and ensure quality is a complicated thing.”
Through the 2BeSource.com Web site, the company allows its customers to coordinate and monitor the fulfillment process. Tex Line is in the process of having its factories evaluated for SA 8000 certification through Social Accountability International, which checks that factories are in compliance with global standards on the treatment of workers.
“We’re currently bringing all our factories into compliance with that standard,” said Dahl, explaining that Tex Line expects all its factories to earn that certification within two years.
The certification is intended to save Tex Line’s customers the worry of discovering that a factory from which they are buying is abusing its workers or violating their rights.
“If a company does not have an agent like us, their only option is to pay an inspection company,” Dahl added. Tex Line is expanding its buying from Vietnam, which recently gained normal trade relations status with the U.S., but has not yet been assigned quota. The company already works with 16 factories there serving the European market.
“We’re very proactive in finding the next suitable country that looks like a major sourcing location,” Dahl said.
One area where the company does not yet source is the Western Hemisphere, though with the Andean Trade Preference Act and Free Trade Area of the Americas under discussion, Dahl said that may be the next move, though not in the near future.
Dahl, a former vice president of product development and sourcing at the now-closed Hills Department Stores, tried setting up his own sourcing agency before accepting a job with Tex Line in October.
Phua said the company has set modest initial revenue targets in the U.S.
“It’s hard to say because we are new to the market,” he said. “But we think we can do at least $10 million this year and we should be able to do $50 million next year.”

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