NEW YORK — The slow market in the U.S. and prospects for quota-free business were top topics of conversation when a contingent of 21 South Korean textile manufacturers came to New York last week to show their wares.

This story first appeared in the March 4, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Korea Preview, an exhibition of spring-summer 2004 fabrics, ran Feb. 25-26 at the New Yorker Hotel on West 34th Street.

Alex Kim, assistant manager of Motionheads Co. Ltd., a Seoul-based maker of polyester and rayon fabrics intended for women’s suits, contended: “The textile business in the U.S. is struggling, but our business is not soft.”

He said that in the past three to four years, the company has repositioned itself and changed its marketing approach. As a result, rather than aiming to ship its fabrics directly to U.S. manufacturers, the company now concentrates on selling to customers that manufacture outside the U.S. It now ships most of its orders to Guatemala and Indonesia, where they are sewn into garments and then shipped on to the U.S.

While South Korea has a well-developed textile industry, its makers have faced intense price competition in recent years. Last year, the nation was the U.S.’s sixth-largest supplier of imported textiles and apparel, as measured in dollars, according to U.S. government data. While its shipments were up 46.89 percent on a volume basis, they were off 1.7 percent in value, which is strong evidence of price deflation.

Kay Lim, manager of the overseas business at Daegu, South Korea-based Song I Textile Co., said price competition has become a major factor in her business.

“It is very hard because Korean product quality is very good, so the prices are high,” she said. The company’s focus has been “keeping the quality high and being as competitive on prices as we can.”

She said her firm looks forward to the dropping of quotas among World Trade Organization nations in 2005 because that will allow them to lower selling prices. She said that quotas today represent about 10 percent of their selling price.

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