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Fibers for nonwovens: 1989 was a record year, but not by much.

staple shipments for nonwovens last year totaled 553 million pounds, up a slight 1% from 1988 figures; it was the fourth consecutive year in which staple sales for nonwovens established a record, as polyester continued to set the pace; polyester fiberfill declined slightly in 1989 In short, business across the board for suppliers of staple fiber to the nonwovens industry is not bad, but it is lacking the strong growth recorded in the recent past.

For the fourth consecutive year, sales of rayon, polyester and olefin staple to nonwoven roll goods producers set a record in 1989, but this time only by a scant six million pounds. Sales last year reached 553 million pounds, compared with 547 million pounds a year earlier. This is equal to only 1% growth from 1988 figures.

By contrast, 1988 sales were 3% ahead of 1987 and 1987 was no less than 13% ahead of 1986. (The complete figures for the last few years and a quarterly breakdown of 1987,1988 and 1989 are included in Tables 1 and 2 and Figure 1.)

Taking the longer view, 1989 sales represented growth of 55% from 1980, which works out to an annual average increase of 5.2%. The other markets for the three fibers, on the other hand, showed an increase of only 1% a year during that period (Table 3).

At the beginning of the decade, nonwovens accounted for 13.5% of domestic shipments of the three fibers. By last year, however, their share had jumped 18.6%, a very good indicator of the growth of nonwovens domestically and of the importance nonwovens have come to play to fibers suppliers in North America.

Polyester was the biggest story of 1989, as it has been for some time now. Sales rose to 272 million pounds, compared with 244 million pounds in 1988, an increase of 11 %, while its olefin competitor virtually stood still and rayon lost poundage and share of market.

Between 1988 and 1989, the markets other than nonwovens for polyester actually showed a drop in poundage (Table 4). In 1989, 12% of polyester sales went to nonwovens; at the beginning of the decade nonwovens accounted for only 8% of polyester's total business (Table 5). In terms of share of the nonwovens business, polyester had 49% last year, about equal to its share 10 years ago but substantially better than its position in several recent years.

For olefin, 1989 was a disappointing year. Sales of 183 million pounds were virtually unchanged from 1988 and its 33% share of market was also no better than a year earlier. As recently as two years ago, olefin and polyester were almost tied in poundage and share of market-polyester at 204 million pounds and olefin at 198 million pounds. Since then, however, polyester has picked up some 20 million pounds of business while olefin has dropped about 15 million pounds. Olefin's suitability for thermal bonding has apparently not yet helped it penetrate the market as much as was hoped (and forecast) a few years ago.

Rayon shipments, which had been fairly steady in the 125 million pounds area for five years or so, plummeted to 98 million pounds in 1989, while its share dropped to 18% from 23% in 1988.

As noted earlier, rayon's share of nonwovens has been declining for some time. However, the sharp drop in 1989 was presumably attributable at least in part to the closing of Avtex's rayon staple producing plant in Front Royal, VA and all of the accompanying uncertainty surrounding rayon supply for most of the year. When that plant closed late in 1989, 30% of domestic capacity was lost in one shot, at least temporarily.

As a result, the two surviving producers-BASF Fibers and Courtaulds Fibers-could not come up with the additional demand and still service their own customers. Both companies have expansion programs underway and those, plus an expected increase in fiber imports, should relieve the supply situation.

Shipment of rayon staple to the nonwovens industry will be increasingly difficult to track in the future as the Fiber Economics Bureau, publisher of the Fibers Organon, will no longer publish those figures because of the disclosure problems with only two domestic suppliers.

Fiberfill Shipments Drop Sharply

For the first time in several years, shipments of polyester fiberfill failed to show a year-to-year increase in 1989. Total sales came to 350 million pounds, marginally less than the previous year's 357 million pounds.

Although its growth rate is much lower than that of nonwovens, fiberfill is a significantly larger market for polyester than the latter (Table 6).

The largest market for polyester fiberfill is the upholstered furniture business. Last year, some 45% of fiberfill went to that market. The other very large end use is for filling household textiles such as pillows, comforters, mattress pads and bedspreads. These uses absorb almost as much poundage as the furniture industry.

Apparel uses, which include such things as coats, ski jackets, snowsuits, parkas and gloves, are small in relation to the uses already mentioned. They accounted for about 8% of total polyester fiberfill shipments. Miscellaneous uses, mostly in industrial areas, comprise the rest of demand.

There are significant quantities of polyester waste used for low end stuffing applications. Last year the figure was 50 million pounds. This waste is not included in the above figures for virgin fiber.

Polyester, by the way, doesn't represent 100% of the fiberfill market, but it might just as well. Shipments of other fibers, presumably mostly acrylic with a little nylon, are so small that they cannot be published without disclosing individual company operations.

Table I

PRODUCER SHIPMENTS OF STAPLE TO NONWOVEN ROLL GOODS PRODUCERS

millions of pounds (% of total)
Year Rayon PET Olefin Total
1975 137(78) 25(14) 14 (8) 176
1980 147(42) 167(48) 35(10) 349
1981 125(39) 149(48) 43(13) 317
1982 112(36) 155(51) 39(13) 306
1983 119(33) 177(50) 62(17) 358
1984 126(30) 178(42) 119(28) 423
1985 114(28) 162(39) 136(33) 412
1986 126(27) 175(38) 166(35) 467
1987 125(24) 204(39) 198(37) 529
1988 122(22) 244(45) 181(33) 547
1989 98(18)e 272(49) 183(33) 553


Table 2

DOMESTIC SHIPMENTS OF MAN-MADE STAPLE TO NONWOVEN ROLL GOODS PRODUCERS

millions of pounds(% of total)
 Period Rayon PET Olefin Total
Quarterly Averages
 1984 32(30) 45(43) 29(27) 106
 1985 29(28) 40(39) 34(33) 103
 1986 31(27) 44(38) 42(35) 117
 1987 31(24) 51(39) 50(37) 132
 1988 31(23) 61(44) 45(33) 137
 1989 24(18) 68(49) 46(33) 138
Actual Quarterly Data
 1987
1st Quarter 31(24) 49(38) 49(38) 129
2nd Quarter 29(23) 48(38) 50(39) 127
3rd Quarter 32(24) 51(39) 48(37) 131
4th Quarter 33(24) 56(40) 51(36) 140
 1988
1st Quarter 35(25) 60(43) 46(32) 141
2nd Quarter 36(26) 56(40) 47(34) 139
3rd Quarter 27(21) 59(45) 45(34) 131
4th Quarter 24(18) 69(51) 43(31) 136
 1989
1st Quarter 27(19) 68(48) 46(33) 141
2nd Quarter 28(19) 72(49) 47(32) 147
3rd Quarter 22(16) 66(49) 47(35) 135
4th Quarter 21(16)e 66(51) 43(33) 130


Table 3

GROWTH OF FIBERS FOR NONWOVENS
 1980 1989 Lbs. CAGR
 (mm lbs) (mm lbs) Change Change
Total Domestic Shipments 2577 2974 +397 1.6%
Shipments To Nonwovens 349 553 +204 5.2%
Shipments To Other Markets 2228 2421 +193 1.0%


CAGR=Compound Annual Growth Rate

Table 4

DOMESTIC SHIPMENTS OF STAPLE FIBER: NONWOVENS VS. OTHER MARKETS 1985-1989

(millions of pounds)
 Total Shipped To All
Fiber/Year Domestic Nonwovens Others
________________________________________________________________
Rayon
1985 324 114 210
1986 373 126 247
1987 383 125 258
1988 386 122 264
1989 350e 98e 252e
% Change 1985-89 +8% +20%
Polyester
1985 1873 162 1711
1986 1999 175 1824
1987 2201 204 1997
1988 2312 244 2068
1989 2261 272 1989
% Change 1985-89 +21% +68% +16%
Olefin
1985 280 136 144
1986 313 166 147
1987 341 198 143
1988 344 181 163
1989 363 183 163
% Change 1985-89 +30% +35% +25%
Total Above
1985 2477 412 2065
1986 2685 467 2218
1987 2925 527 2398
1988 3042 547 2495
1989 2974 553 2421
% Change 1985-89 +20% +34% +17%


Table 5

THE IMPORTANCE OF NONWOVENS TO DOMESTIC FIBER SHIPMENTS

(millions of pounds)
Year and Item Rayon PET Olefin Total
1980____________________________________________________________
Total Domestic Shipments 391 2071 115 2577
Nonwovens (lbs) 147 167 35 349
 (% share) 38 8 34 14
1981____________________________________________________________
Total Domestic Shipments 397 2005 132 2534
Nonwovens (lbs) 125 149 43 317
 (% share) 31 7 32 12
1982____________________________________________________________
Total Domestic Shipments 294 1767 139 2200
Nonwovens (lbs) 112 155 39 306
 (% share) 38 9 28 14
1983____________________________________________________________
Total Domestic Shipments 334 2099 183 2616
Nonwovens (lbs) 119 177 62 358
 (% share) 36 8 34 14
1984____________________________________________________________
Total Domestic Shipments 332 1992 241 2565
Nonwovens (lbs) 126 178 119 423
 (% share) 38 9 49 16
1985____________________________________________________________
Total Domestic Shipments 324 1873 280 2477
Nonwovens (lbs) 114 162 136 412
 (% share) 35 9 49 17
1986____________________________________________________________
Total Domestic Shipments 373 1999 313 2685
Nonwovens (lbs) 126 175 166 466
 (% share) 34 9 53 17
1987____________________________________________________________
Total Domestic Shipments 383 2201 341 2925
Nonwovens (lbs) 125 204 198 527
 (% share) 33 9 58 18
1988____________________________________________________________
Total Domestic Shipments 386 2312 344 3042
Nonwovens (lbs) 122 244 181 547
 (% share) 32 11 53 18
1989____________________________________________________________
Total Domestic Shipments 350e 2261 363 2974
Nonwovens (lbs)e 98e 272 183 553
 (% share) 28 12 50 19


Source: Fiber Economics Bureau

Table 6

POLYESTER SALES TO NONWOVENS/FIBERFILL

(mm lbs)
Year Nonwovens Fiberfill Total
1986 175 295 470
1987 204 349 553
1988 244 357 601
1989 272 350 622
Change 1986/89
MM Lbs 97 55 152
CAGR 11.5% 4.4% 7.1%


CAGR=Compound Annual Growth Rate
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Author:Harrison, David
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Jun 1, 1990
Words:1668
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