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US manufacturing activity contracted in January for a fourth straight month. Factories grappled with a strong dollar and lower oil prices forced energy firms to further cut spending, but the pace of the decline appeared to be slowing. Consumer spending was flat in December, but a jump in savings to a three-year high offered hope that consumption would rebound in the coming months.

The buoyant dollar has combined with tepid global demand to undermine US exports. At the same time, businesses are working to reduce a huge pile of unsold merchandise that’s clogging warehouses, which has left little scope to place new orders with factories.

But there are rays of hope for the sector, which accounts for 12 per cent of the economy. Last month, more factories reported an increase in orders and production. In addition, inventory levels and order books appeared to be stabilising. Consumer spending was unchanged in December after increasing 0.5 per cent in November. Spending on long-lasting manufactured goods such as autos dropped 0.9 per cent. Purchases of nondurable goods, including apparel, also fell 0.9 per cent.

Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of US economic activity, increased 3.4 per cent in 2015 after advancing 4.2 per cent in 2014.

"Acton points out, every time there are new technologies or new additives in the linen, they don’t really consider, for example, the flatwork department. Sometimes it’s just trial and error to deal with some of the issues that arise. Mangini recommended developing a close working relationship with vendors before a high-tech linen product gets into a healthcare system. Testing brings up another area that was discussed by the panel: Do high-tech healthcare linen really work? The panelist felt, testing hasn’t been done yet."




Linen processing in the healthcare industry is changing. The sheets, gowns and other products used by healthcare facilities were all once made from traditional fibers. Today, those fibers are going high-tech. Vendors are creating linen with antimicrobial properties using a variety of processes and materials to help combat hospital-acquired/associated infections (HAI).


Linen innovations in healthcare textiles


The industry however is just in the initial stages of this new technology, and there are several factors that healthcare facilities and laundries need to consider before investing in these new linens.

These considerations were discussed at a panel at the recent ‘Clean Show’ during an educational session titled Going Hi-Tech: Emerging Textile Technologies. The panel included: James Mangini, Director of Linen Services at Maine Medical Center, Ty Acton, Global Sales VP, Tingue, Brown & Co, Fontaine Sands, Associate Professor at Eastern Kentucky University, Joe Scully, President, In Textiles LLC and Doug Story, VP Corporate Support, Gurtler Industries.

According to Scully, from a textile manufacturer’s point of view, the proper antimicrobial technology is the “holy grail. He says that there are many different types of technology out there, but he thinks the ‘holy grail’ has been found yet. There are two types of applications of antimicrobials to textiles, in the manufacturing process. Scully says that one is inherent, wherein the antimicrobial agent is introduced into the synthetic polymer prior to the extrusion of the fiber. The antimicrobial agents last longer on the inherent side, typically, but it is more expensive. Scully says that the cost of production with the chemical used on the linen could be an additional 20-30 per cent.

Operating Room Sheets-873x384

Acton points out, every time there are new technologies or new additives in the linen, they don’t really consider, for example, the flatwork department. Sometimes it’s just trial and error to deal with some of the issues that arise. Mangini recommended developing a close working relationship with vendors before a high-tech linen product gets into a healthcare system. Testing brings up another area that was discussed by the panel: Do high-tech healthcare linen really work? The panelist felt, testing hasn’t been done yet.

Story said the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has not certified antibacterial products to specific microorganisms. The EPA does look at processes, however, according to Story. In terms of approval, the EPA goes into a plant and asks for the validation of the processes of creating hygienically sanitized or sterile areas. Story pointed out, the EPA wants to be able to follow a piece of material through a plant and, when it comes out the other end and is delivered to the healthcare facility, know that it’s going to be just as clean as it was when it was brand-new or the last time it was washed and certified.

When it comes to hygienically clean linen processes, Sands suggested looking at the plant before looking at the linen. Looking at a laundry’s system, Sands says there are certain things that can be controlled. These include water quality and temperature, amount of agitation, proper loading, the appropriate amount of time and chemicals, and the heat/temperature.

A textile and garment machinery fair will be held in Bangladesh, February 4 to 7, 2016. The fair will offer a platform for local exporters to interact with manufacturers, regional agents and wholesalers and source high-quality machinery, equipment and materials.

Over 1,000 machinery makers from 33 countries, including Bangladesh, will display a wide variety of state-of-the-art textile and garment technology, machinery and parts. Exhibitors, through 1,160 booths, will showcase the latest machines and technology to textile and industry people, including spinners, weavers and knitters. Countries like Australia, China, Hong Kong, Turkey, UK, UAE, USA, France, Germany, South Korea, India, Pakistan and Vietnam will be present. Global brands like Jakob Muller, Karl Mayer, Picanol, Rieter, Santoni, Shima Seiki will display and sell their products.

Bangladesh’s imports of textile machinery in the fiscal year of 2014-15 went up by over 40 per cent compared to the last fiscal year of 2013-14. More than 1,300 spinning, weaving, dyeing, printing and finishing mills in the country have invested four billion dollars and the sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product amounts to 13 per cent.

This sector has established a strong backward linkage industry for the country’s garment sector. As a result, the garment sector has been able to keep up its growth momentum and remain sustainable.

The Kooples has chosen to use Lectra’s patternmaking, grading and prototyping solution for support in its expansion plans. The Kooples was a brand founded in France in 2008. Its accessible high-end product positioning and an identity centered on the concept of fashion for men and women have set it apart from competitors. The brand controls its entire supply chain, from design to distribution. Its priorities are now to widen its product range by introducing sportswear and children’s wear as well as to expand business internationally, particularly in Europe and the United States.

Its philosophy focuses on reworking the British art of bespoke tailoring, offering contemporary and effortlessly cool silhouettes. It does away with the traditional notion of separate men’s and women’s clothing and creates concepts which fuse and mingle the collections.

The embodiment of a pioneering spirit, The Kooples consistently breaks new ground and has extended its ready-to-wear expertise to include shoes, accessories and watches. Its minimalist design and unique fit are immediately recognizable.

The Lectra solution allows product development department to perfect its patternmaking process and the company to expand its collections without growing its team. The company can also boost its responsiveness at the product development stage without sacrificing the quality of its clothing.

Cotton Council International promoted US cotton to the global home textile industry at the first international trade show of the year, Heimtextil in Germany, held recently. The Cotton USA pavilion at Heimtextil served as an international meeting point for the entire cotton trade, including merchants, mills, manufacturers, brands, retailers and the press. The pavilion provided comprehensive information about the global cotton market, sourcing, consumer research and the marketing and promotional services that the US cotton industry offers.

Cotton USA licensees conducted business meetings at the stand, drawing traffic to the US cotton booth. Several companies from Turkey signed Cotton USA licenses during the show, and companies from Germany and South Asia expressed interest in joining the Cotton USA license program. Another attraction at the booth was the introduction of Solucell product innovations for cotton terry products, which represent new business opportunities for US cotton. Cotton USA licensees displayed samples of these cotton hollow yarn products, which are softer and lighter cotton terry goods.

Business expectations for US cotton in 2016 look promising. Heimtextil is the world’s leading trade show for home textiles. This show had more than 69,000 trade visitors and 2,866 exhibitors from across the world.

Garment workers in Poland and the Czech Republic are underpaid and forced to work long hours. Production sites in Poland and the Czech Republic produce for high-priced brands, but workers just earn the legal minimum wage or less. Very little of the profits actually trickle down to the workers.

In addition to low wages, workers are forced to do overtime which is often unpaid and an environment that harms the health of workers. The state of pay in the clothing industry has a lot to do with the fact that most workers are women. Even after 20 years of work, some still earn the minimum wage and don’t get overtime bonus paid according to the law.

Workers are under constant pressure because of the quick turnovers brands demand from the factories. They are afraid to speak about working conditions for risk of losing their job. Factories are pressured by buyers and brands on purchasing prices and conditions, primarily with threats of loss of orders. In the overwhelming majority of the factories no unions are active.

Garment wages are the lowest of all industrial sector wages, even though it is an important sector for employment and exports. Between 70 and 90 per cent of production in both countries is exported.

Bangladesh will shore up and offer incentives for export-oriented industries. Six export products alone account for nearly 90 per cent of the country’s yearly export earnings. Bangladesh’s exporters have been passing through a torrid time in recent times because of the euro zone crises, higher production costs and infrastructure deficiencies.

Leather goods will get from 12.5 per cent to 15 per cent and a two per cent extra incentive will be provided for apparel exporters to the euro zone countries. Two promising industries—furniture and plastic goods—will be eligible for incentives. Furniture will get a 15 per cent incentive and plastic goods a 10 per cent subsidy. The furniture sector raked in 38.64 million dollars in the 2014-15 financial year.

Non-traditional items such as potato starch will be given a 20 per cent export incentive against their receipts, while carbon exports from jute stick will get 20 per cent. A three per cent incentive is applicable for export earnings to be generated from countries other than the US, Canada and EU markets. The export value of Bangladesh readymade garments in the EU declined by 2.70 per cent in the first six months of the current fiscal year.

India’s cotton exports are expected to rise by 21.27 per cent during the 2015-16 season, mostly due to a rise in demand from Pakistan. Demand in Pakistan has grown due to crop damage in the Punjab region. Almost 33 per cent of the cotton crop in Pakistan has been damaged from whitefly. In the first three months till December 31, Pakistan already imported 16.60 lakh bales from India, while it had imported overall 3.79 lakh bales in the entire year of 2014-15.

This year, Pakistan will overtake Bangladesh as the top importer of Indian cotton. Howeverm cotton output in India is estimated at 352 lakh bales in 2015-16, compared to 380 lakh bales in the previous season, mainly on account of crop damage in Punjab due to whitefly, white ball worm in Gujarat and drought in Karnataka.

India’s textile industry is predominantly cotton based. India is one of the largest producers as well as exporters of cotton yarn. India was the third largest supplier of textiles and clothing to the US in 2013, contributing about 6.01 per cent of its total imports. Cotton cultivation in India in 2014-15 was 12.25 million hectares.

Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are the major cotton producers in India.

The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), a trade association representing more than 1,000 brands with members from across the entire fashion supply chain, released a statement in support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. With the TPP covering 40 per cent of the world's GDP and reaching approximately 800 million consumers, the trade pact represents significant opportunities for the clothing, shoe, and accessories industry. For this reason, and after consultation with our members, said the association expressing their strong support for the TPP.

The association says the US apparel, footwear, and accessories industry is a global industry in which nearly every US job in their business depends on access to foreign customers or global supply chains, or both. TPP will provide opportunities to reduce costs, stay competitive, and enter new markets.

They observed that the benefits of the TPP will materialize more quickly in the case of travel goods (items such as handbags, backpacks, and laptop cases) and footwear, which feature more flexible rules of origin and immediate duty-free treatment for a wide range of products. While there are some immediate opportunities for apparel, most apparel articles are constrained by extremely restrictive rules of origin and long duty phase-outs, meaning benefits will take longer to realize.

The US apparel, footwear, and accessories industry employs more than four million U.S. workers, and represents more than $360 billion in U.S. retail sales.

According to the International Cotton Advisory Committee (CAC), citing the enhanced competitiveness of polyester China, which last season lost to India the title of the world's top cotton producer, is to give up top rank in imports too. The committee deepened to 40 per cent, from 34 per cent, its forecast for the top in Chinese cotton imports in 2015-16, taking the estimate from 1.2m tonnes to 1.08m tonnes (5.0m bales).

According to CAC projections, they would demote China to equal second, with Bangladesh, on cotton imports, behind Vietnam, which is expected to buy 1.1m tonnes this season. ICAC highlighted the role in Vietnam's rise as a cotton importer, with volumes seen soaring 17 per cent this season, its low labour costs.

However, it also flagged the enhanced competitiveness of polyester, of which China produces 72 per cent of global supplies, making this fibre a particularly acute rival to cotton for the country's mills. Polyester's discount to cotton has ‘continued to widen,’ ICAC said, reporting that values of the artificial fibre had averaged 48 cents a pound in the first half of 2015-16.

Cotton prices, as measured by the Cotlook A index, averaged 70 cents a pound. The ongoing drop in polyester prices cuts into cotton's market share, particularly in China where polyester has been favoured over cotton in recent seasons, the committee said, cutting by 200,000 tonnes to 7.1m tonnes its estimate for Chinese cotton consumption in 2015-16.

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