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A flat quarter for nonwoven fibers: first quarter 1989 staple shipments to nonwovens were 141 million pounds; polyester increased, while rayon dropped and olefin held steady.

A Flat Quarter For Nonwoven Fibers

first quarter 1989 staple shipments to nonwovens were 141 million pounds; polyester increased, while rayon dropped and olefin held steady Shipments of polyester, olefin and rayon staple to the producers of nonwoven roll goods in the first quarter of this year totaled 141 million pounds, a 4% (five million pound) increase from the closing quarter of 1988 and exactly even with the sales for the first quarter of last year.

Polyester continues to lead the way, with shipments in the first quarter of 68 million pounds, down very slightly from the preceding quarter but eight million pounds (13%) higher than the corresponding quarter of 1988. Polyester's share of the market increased to 48% last quarter, compared with 43% a year ago.

Olefin's performance, by contrast, was sluggish, as it has been for some time now in the face of polyester competition. Sales last quarter at 46 million pounds were up three million pounds from the poor fourth quarter figure, but showed no increase over the shipments in the corresponding period of 1988. Olefin's share last quarter was 33%, up from 31% in the fourth quarter but very little improved from the first quarter 1988 figure of 32%.

Rayon continues to decline in both poundage and market share, with shipments in the first quarter at only 27 million pounds, up three million pounds (13%) from the very low fourth quarter figure but eight million pounds (23%) lower than sales in the first quarter of 1988. Rayon's share of the market has now declined to 19%, compared with 25% a year earlier.

It may be that the first quarter rayon figure this year still reflected some of the disruption brought about by the short-lived closing of the Avtex Fibers rayon producing facility at Front Royal VA during the fourth quarter of 1988. The plant, Avtex's only rayon-producing facility, was closed for more than a week in the fourth quarter as a result of an environmental dispute with the state of Virginia. After reopening the plant, Avtex announced that it would reduce rayon capacity very sharply. However, the cuts were to apply to fibers directed at the apparel markets; fiber available for nonwovens and other end use areas was not to be affected.

In the first quarter of this year, nonwoven roll goods producers accounted for 18% of the domestic shipments of the three fibers concerned. This was unchanged from the 1988 average. However, the individual fibers vary.

Polyester, the dominant fiber in nonwovens, only depends upon nonwovens for 12% of its business. Polyester's big volume markets are in broad woven goods, knit goods, fiberfill and carpets. These markets are holding at their 1988 levels and in some cases doing better.

Olefin, the runner-up to polyester in nonwovens, placed exactly half of its total poundage into the nonwovens market last quarter. This was down somewhat from the 1988 average of 53%. Olefin's loss of nonwovens poundage in the first quarter of 1989 compared with 1988 was approximately made up by an increase in the only other major market for olefin staple--carpets. Carpets and nonwovens together account for 92% of olefin staple sales.

In rayon, sales to nonwovens producers in the first quarter represented 27% of total domestic shipments of the fiber. Rayon's major market continues to be in broad woven goods, where business has been very strong, with staple shipments running 18% ahead of the figure one year ago. Weavers continue to report that fiber availability is tight with the Avtex shutdown of apparel fibers; it seems likely that this situation will persist for some time.
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Title Annotation:Fibers Quarter
Author:Harrison, David
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Article Type:column
Date:Sep 1, 1989
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