NEW YORK — U.S. machinery makers and distributors are generally upbeat about their prospects for 1994.

The apparel industry is by no means in a period of robust growth, they report. But there are bright spots, most notably interest in new equipment for Computer Aided Design and wrinkle-resistant apparel.

“We believe it’s going to be a tremendously successful year for us,” said Jay Wilster, president, Sussman Automatic, Long Island City, N.Y. “The reason is that we’re right smack in the middle of the wrinkle-resistant business, which is explosive at present.”

Though Sussman’s sales are primarily going to the U.S., overseas sales have landed everywhere from Thailand to the Dominican Republic.

Wilster said he expects business in the U.S. to remain robust. “The excitement in the manufacturing market here is a derivative of the excitement that’s being generated by the retail market. Wrinkle-resistance is now being pushed by the marketers of the industry, which bodes well.

“Now, with the introduction of the process into shirts, there is a great need for pressing equipment, as well as curing ovens. For the first time in years, pressing departments are receiving the kind of attention cutting and sewing rooms have had.”

David Bacharach, president of Apparel Machinery & Supply Co., Philadelphia, Pa., also anticipates a good year for wrinkle-resistant cotton apparel. “There’s been a real holdback in the garment industry over the last few years. But the wrinkle resistance has created a whole new need for capital equipment. Our feeling is that we’ll have a very good year.”

Another area that looks good for machinery sales is embroidery. “We see the need for enhanced apparel as very strong for 1994, and we’re anticipating an increase over 1993 in that segment of our business,” said Jerry Lee, vice-president/ general manager for Macpherson, Inc., Greensboro, N.C.

“With the World Cup soccer this summer and the Olympics in 1996, we believe the need for embroidered products will remain strong for the next couple of years.”

CAD suppliers also expect a good year. “We’re starting out with expectations that this will be one of the better years in recent history,” said Rick Ludolph, marketing manager for Lectra USA, Atlanta, Ga.

“We had a great reaction to some new products introduced at the first of the year, and the work in process seems to be high at apparel companies.” Lectra introduced a complete line of cutting systems last year, and shifted its emphasis to open architectures, a move that has been well received, said Ludolph.

The most significant progress, however, is expected to be made in CAD systems. “Years ago the key markets were marker making and grading. Then the leading technology became pattern-making systems. For 1994 we see a key year for the artistic of fashion design areas, or CAD.

“It seems that for many companies, CAD has become a question not of when, but who is the best vendor for the job. And generally, we find the apparel sector healthy. There are, of course, bad spots, but many parts of the U.S. have bounced back. So we see a lot of optimism, especially when NAFTA is taken into account.”

Sewing manufacturers also expect a decent year but reported that 1993 was difficult.

“We had a good year, but we did it by concentrating on niches,” said Norman Witthauer, vice-president, marketing, for Durkopp America, Inc., Norcross, Ga. “We aren’t at all sanguine about the fact that the entire U.S. apparel industry is doing well.

“Certain segments are doing fine. We’re looking at a stabilizing jeans industry, although pant and trousers continue to see an erosion. The tailored clothing seems to be making a comeback. At least the closing seem to have fallen off. But most of the significant expansion will be done offshore.”

Based on emerging trends, Witthauer sees the most growth in Latin America, in countries such as Brazil and Colombia. Honduras will grow, predicted Witthauer, while Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic will see very little growth because of maturing markets there. Sales to the Far East will remain strong, said Witthauer.

“Overall, we’re predicting a good year,” he concluded.

In the interlining sector, which has come off a rather tough ’93, the outlook is for modest growth for ’94.

According to Morton Zisk, vice-president of Freudenberg Nonwovens’ Interlining division, “Competition and price pressure in the apparel marketplace have become much more intense over the past year and will continue to be so in 1994, but we are looking forward to another year of modest, but steady, growth.

“We brought a number of new products to the market in 1993, and we expect our growth will come from these during this year. These include the System 9000 line of stitch-reinforced nonwovens for a broad range of applications in both men’s and women’s wear, and the new 8100 Series for men’s wear. We expect to introduce a new line of Viltec 850 Series interlinings for the shirt market early in 1994, and we also expect growth from that,” Zisk added.

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