Establishments in this classification are primarily engaged in knitting weft, or circular, fabrics or in the dyeing or finishing of weft, or circular, fabrics. These companies may sell their fabrics to manufacturers of outerwear, underwear, or other products in the apparel or home furnishings industries. Companies engaged in knitting weft outerwear fabrics and subsequently producing outerwear in the same establishment are discussed in SIC 2253: Knit Outerwear Mills. Also, establishments engaged in knitting circular underwear and nightwear products and that manufacture the end-product at the same site are discussed in SIC 2254: Knit Underwear and Nightwear Mills. Overall, those companies who buy knit fabrics for the production of outerwear and underwear are described in the major group for apparel and other finished products made from fabrics and similar materials.
313241 (Weft Knit Fabric Mills)
313312 (Textile and Fabric Finishing (except Broadwoven Fabric) Mills)
Fabrics produced in this category are used across the spectrum of finished goods, from leisure and active wear to more expensive evening wear. The handling of circular knit fabrics is a more delicate process than the handling of woven goods, because the fabrics are not as stable in the finished state. Extreme care must be taken and special containers must be used when shipping circular knit fabrics.
The merging of many small- and mid-size companies into giant conglomerates during the late 1990s helped the U.S. textile industry buy and sell merchandise worldwide. This consolidation was largely due to changes in international trade agreements. For example, industry leader Guilford Mills' acquisition of Hofmann Laces Ltd. in 1996 was one of the largest in its history, part of a series of takeovers designed to help the company expand globally. In 1999 Guilford Mills began work on a huge textile and garment manufacturing park in Altamira, Mexico, to expand its foreign operations. However, due to increased competition from imports and a sluggish U.S. economy, the firm found itself unable to handle its mounting debt. Guilford Mills filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2002, from which it emerged later in the year. As part of its restructuring, the Greensboro, North Carolina-based firm shifted its focus from apparel fabrics to automotive fabrics. Guilford Mills had 2,600 employees and sales of $456 million in 2003.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported roughly 250 establishments producing weft knit fabrics at the turn of the twenty-first century. These companies shipped $1.46 billion worth of fabric in 2001, down from $5.2 billion in 1995. This category employed approximately 16,231 workers in 2000 (14,229 of whom were production workers), with a total payroll estimated at $400 million. The average wage for production workers was $7.02 per hour.
In 1997 Dyersburg Corp. of Dyersburg, Tennessee, had paid $123 million for Almanac Knits to become the nation's largest circular knitting company. The corporation employed 3,160 people and had sales of $417.5 million in 1998. However, due to the difficult conditions faced by all U.S. mills, Dyersburg was forced to close some of its U.S. plants and reduce production in others. By 2000, the firm found itself struggling to stay afloat. In 2001, Dyersburg filed bankruptcy and liquidated its operations. Malden Mills Industries Inc. of Lawrence, Massachusetts, also emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the early 2000s; the firm posted sales of $161 million in 2002. Other industry leaders included Collins and Aikman Textile Group of Charlotte, North Carolina.
One industry trend during the late 1990s was the rise of micro-denier fabrics. These densely woven textiles mimic soft silk because they are woven from fabrics containing less than one denier per filament; this creates a fabric that feels like silk and costs considerably less.
U.S. Census Bureau. "Current Industrial Reports: Apparel 2002." August 2003. Available from http://www.census.gov/industry/1/mq315a025.pdf .
——. "Statistics for Industry Groups and Industries: 2000." February 2002. Available from http://www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/m00as-1.pdf .
——. "Value of Shipment for Product Classes: 2001 and Earlier Years." December 2002. Available from http://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/m01as-2.pdf .