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Fiber usage in nonwovens improves, somewhat: shipments have risen since last quarter but remain unchanged from last year.

The latest data from the Fiber Economic Bureau show that sales olefin, polyester and rayon staple to the nonwovens trade in the second quarter were 186 million pounds, a 3% improvement over the preceding quarter but virtually the same as they were in the corresponding months of last year. For the first six months of the year, sales totaled 367 million pounds, 1% (5 million pounds) under the figure for the corresponding months of 2003. The summary figures are shown in Table 1.

There were no significant changes in the relative importance of these fibers in the nonwovens business. Olefin continues to set the pace with a 50% share of the total compared to 42% for polyester and 8% for rayon.

For a number of years, staple-based nonwovens outperformed the rest of the olefin and polyester staple markets. For convenient reference, we have called other markets "traditional" to distinguish them from nonwovens. For practical purposes, the "traditional" markets are those (e.g. woven fabrics, knit goods, etc.) that use yarn whereas staple-based nonwovens are formed without going through a yarn spinning process. In good years, nonwovens tended to grow at a faster rate than the other traditional markets. In bad years, shipments to nonwovens usually decline less than in traditional markets. But, recently that comparison has tended to move in favor of the traditional markets as the staple-based nonwovens business matured and presumably lost some competitive ground to the new methods of producing nonwovens. Table 2 illustrates the performance of nonwovens versus traditional markets for the two fibers.

Total domestic shipments of the two fibers increased by 34 million pounds, or 3%, but that was the result of a drop in nonwovens and an increase in the traditional markets for olefin and polyester staple fibers. For olefin, the only major market besides nonwovens is carpet. Polyester, on the other hand, has several major outlets, woven goods, knit fabrics and carpet face yarns as well as fiberfill.


In sharp contrast to the lackluster performance of nonwovens, the polyester fiberfill business has done extremely well in the first six months of this year. Sales amounted to 222 million pounds, a striking 40 million pounds, or 22%, ahead of the corresponding period of last year. Even after allowing for some slowdown while the market digests the very high first half shipments, it seems that 2004 will be excellent year for the fiberfill business. An annual total in the 460 million pound range is entirely possible. If achieved it would surpass the record of 453 million pounds achieved in 2000.
Table 1
Fiber Shipments
(millions of pounds)

Period O P O+P R Total

6 months 2004 185 154 339 28 367
6 months 2003 189 154 343 29 372
Change (lbs) -4 -- -4 -1 -5
Change % -2% -- -1 -3 -1

Source: Fiber Economics Bureau

Table 2
Nonwovens vs. Traditional Textiles

 Domestic Shipments Nonwovens "Traditional"
6 mos 2004 1217 367 850
6 mos 2003 1183 372 811
Change lbs 34 -5 39
Change % 3% -1% 5%

* Data refer to olefin and polyester only; source: Fiber Economic

A weft-known fiber industry expert, David Harrison writes for NONWOVENS INDUSTRY quarterly.
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Title Annotation:Fibers Quarter
Comment:Fiber usage in nonwovens improves, somewhat: shipments have risen since last quarter but remain unchanged from last year.(Fibers Quarter)
Author:Harrison, David
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2004
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