Production & Marketing

Textile Manufacturing in North Carolina



North Carolina’s early textile industry provided vital economic growth in the post-Civil War era.

  • Textile plants shifted from the Northeast to the South for more exploitable labor.
  • Local governments attracted industry by touting the economic conditions that existed in the region:
    • Low-wages
    • Low-taxes
    • Non-unionized workers
  • Textile mills were perfectly suited to take advantage of the existing plantation economy and racial segregation.

At its peak—roughly the first half of the twentieth century—the textile industry was one of the state’s most important industries alongside tobacco cultivation and furniture manufacturing.

  • 1927: N.C. became the nation’s leading textile-producing state.  N.C. remains atop this category today.
  • Some textile mills created entirely new communities, “mill towns”
  • 1973: 36% of all manufacturing jobs in NC were in textiles, ~290,000 people.
  • 1992: only 16%, a drastic decline yet still higher than the national average of 2%.

Both nationally and in N.C., employment in the textile sector has been steadily decreasing since 1950, although rates have increased over time.

  • Globalization
    • 1970s: Many textile manufacturers began moving to Mexico, South America and Asia for even cheaper labor.
  • Technological innovation
  • The decline in textile sector employment has created substantial problems of unemployment throughout the state and has forced the economy to diversify in new fields.
  • From 1997 to 2002, N.C. lost over 100,000 textile jobs
  • The unique phenomenon of mill towns presents especially troublesome scenarios when mass-layoffs occur. (Ex: Eden, N)
  • Burlington Industries
    • Greensboro, NC
    • Once the world’s largest textile company
    • Drastic decline in employment
      • 1974: 81,000 workers
      • 1997: 20,000 workers

Today, North Carolina remains a hub for the US textile industry despite considerable challenges, both past and present.

  • Distinction between apparel and textile industries
    • Apparel industry exemplifies the problem of globalization
    • Textile industry less affected by globalization because of its ability to adapt through technological innovations
  • VF Corporation
  • International Textile Group (parent company of Cone Denim)

“It’s a competitive climate.  If you want to compete, you can leave or you can invest in new technology.  Either way, you’re getting rid of labor.”
–Economic historian, Peter Coclanis

Profile: Cone Mills/Cone Denim

  • Headquarters currently located in Greensboro, NC
  • 1891:  Established in Greensboro with the opening of Proximity Mill
  • 1905:  White Oak Mill opens in Greensboro
  • 1910:  White Oak produced 1/3 of the world’s denim
    • Largest denim producer in world, “King Denim”
  • Exclusive producer of denim for Levi’s 501 jeans since 1915
  • Currently operates mills in:
    • USA (White Oak Mill, 1905-present, Greensboro, NC)
    • Mexico (2)
    • Nicaragua
    • China

Target Marketing

  • Vulnerable consumers
  • Mass marketing to Internet-based consumer-specific marketing

Why Designer Jeans Sell

  • Denim industry is approximately $13 billion.  The recent economy has led to sales decreases for premium denim over $200, while lower-priced jeans such as Levi’s, Lee, and Wrangler are seeing increases in sales.
  • Despite the product’s comparative worth, producers will employ non-informational brand promotion because it may be profitable to do so.
  • Intelligent consumers should, in theory, always analyze the jean’s quality, features, construction, and price, but many times consumers are drawn to a particular brand for other reasons.
  • Important is the feeling of familiarity with the brand due to repeated experience with it in their household growing up, various social settings, or through exposure to the brands advertisements.
  • Many times, a brand’s advertising relays unimportant or irrelevant information, but nonetheless can drive up sales more than an advertisement highlighting the brand’s superior/unique features.
  • The use of images, specifically ones that relate to the desires of the consumer, and prominent display, for instance on a 100-foot billboard in Manhattan, highly increase a consumer’s chances of buying a specific pair of jeans.

Top Jeans Have The 4 F’s (Sources: NPD Group, Romney Evans/TrueJeans.com)
Romney Evans, CEO of TrueJeans.com, says these key factors most affect the price and prestige of premium denim:

  • Fit
  • Fabric
  • Finishing
  • Fashion-forward

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