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Shipments of fibers to nonwovens reported for 2003: it was a poor year for nonwovens.

As expected, 2003 turned out to be a very poor year for staple-based nonwovens. Total domestic shipments of manufactured staple fiber to nonwovens roll goods producers were 717 million pounds, 13% or 110 million pounds below 2002 statistics, making it the worst year since 1998 when 688 million pounds were shipped to nonwovens producers. The 10-year history of fiber activity in nonwovens is shown in Table 1.

Looking at the 10-year data, the year 2000 seems to have been something of a turning point. Prior to that year, increases in shipments were routine (with one trivial exception). Most spectacular was the huge leap in sales between 1998 and 1999 when the increase was no less than 137 million pounds or 20%. Sales actually reached their peak in 2000, but since then the curve has turned downward with the latest figure being extremely low.

In the first year of the period, olefin and polyester were equal in poundage at 280 million pounds each. Thereafter, olefin gained at polyester's expense until reaching its peak marketshare (56%) in 2001-2002. In the latest reporting period polyester came back quite strongly, boosting its share to 41% and lowering olefin's share to 52%.

In the past it has been noted that, while olefin staple sales are heavily dependent on nonwovens business, they are a much smaller factor in the polyester picture. That is still true but not as true as it used to be. In the peak year 2000, 64% of olefin sales went to nonwovens producers. By 2003, nonwovens absorbed only 57% of domestic shipments. The polyester figures show a contrary picture. Back in 1994, nonwovens provided a market for only 13% of polyester staple. But, in those days, polyester enjoyed more than 700 million pounds per year in sales to broad weavers; that business has dropped off to not much better than 400 million pounds. Similarly, knit good business has declined from better than 509 million pounds annually to less than 300 million. Both developments reflect the decline of garment manufacturing and the demand for apparel fabrics in the U.S. In light of such developments, there is ample incentive for polyester fiber producers to intensify their efforts in markets which, in more prosperous days, were not of major importance. According to Fiber Economics Bureau data, domestic shipments of manufactured staple for apparel use have declined more than 40% between 1994 and last year. The figures on domestic shipments of a manufactured staple for apparel, home furnishings and industrial uses are shown in Table 2.

Even allowing for the fact that 2003 was a cyclically poor year, the drop in domestic sales to the apparel trades compared with the results for home textiles and industrial markets was dramatic.

Polyester Fiberfill Developments

The polyester fiberfill business last year was also poor but not as bad as the nonwovens area. Sales were 388 million pounds, down 11% from 2002. The longer term trend is static to downward. For example, between 1994 and 2003, sales dropped 6% from 431 million to 388 million pounds--a relatively slight decline compared to the nonwovens industry during the same period. Polyester has virtually no interfiber competition in fiberfill applications but there is a significant market served by urethane foam.
Table 1

10 Year History of Fiber Activity

 Olefine Polyester O/P Rayon Total

1994 280 279 559 45 604
1995 267 280 547 44 591
1996 294 285 579 52 631
1997 314 286 600 54 654
1998 339 292 631 57 688
1999 454 310 764 61 825
2000 483 320 813 65 878
2001 466 298 764 61 825
2002 459 306 765 62 827
2003 369 294 663 54 717

Source: Fiber Economics Bureau; rayon is estimated

Table 2

Shipments By End Use Segment

 Apparel Home Industrial Total

1994 1098 1628 1216 3942
1995 910 1487 1256 3653
1996 876 1582 1205 3663
1997 1044 1594 1200 3818
1998 899 1610 1223 3732
1999 849 1612 1391 3852
2000 826 1579 1445 3850
2001 708 1395 1286 3389
2002 666 1422 1350 3483
2003 612 1407 1209 3228

Change: 1994-2003

Lbs. -486 -221 -7 -714
% -44 -14 -- -18
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Comment:Shipments of fibers to nonwovens reported for 2003: it was a poor year for nonwovens.
Author:Harrison, David
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2004
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