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Fibers for nonwovens holding steady.

The opening quarter of 1993 was a virtual replay of the final quarter of 1992. The latest period's shipments totaled 148 million pounds of olefin, polyester and rayon staple, unchanged from the October-December period of 1992. Olefin shipments increased slightly to 65 million pounds in the latest period while polyester sales dropped a million pounds to 66 million. Estimated sales of rayon staple remained at 17 million pounds each quarter. Figures for selected recent periods are (in million pounds):
 1990 1991 1992 1Q92 4Q92 1Q93
Olefin 233 272 259 68 64 65
Polyester 240 237 244 55 67 66
Rayon (est.) 72 70 70 18 17 17
Total 545 579 573 141 148 148
Source: Fiber Economics Bureau, Inc. and trade estimates

While staple sales to nonwoven roll goods producers in the first quarter of this year were flat, the comparison with the corresponding period of 1992 shows an increase of seven million pounds, or 5%.

Comparisons with the corresponding period of the previous year are sometimes more meaningful than comparisons with the immediately preceding quarter because they allow for the influence of seasonal factors. The catch is that the general state of business often overwhelms any influence that seasonal factors may exert. Thus, a projection of the 1992 market based upon the first quarter data for this year and last year would suggest a 1993 total for staple shipments of slightly over 600 million pounds, which would be a new high. Such an outcome (desirable though it may be) must be considered unlikely.

The current outlook is for slow growth (if any) in the next few quarters, with an expected (or at least hoped for) spurt in the closing three months of the year. Speculation on the basis of one quarter's data is risky, but the available evidence suggests that 1992 shipments may fall in the 565-575 million pound area, which would be about the same as 1992.

In comparing the first quarter of this year with the corresponding 1992 period, the improvement in polyester's positing is striking. In 1992, polyester sales amounted to 55 million pounds for a 39% market share. But in the latest quarter, polyester sales had jumped to 66 million pounds, an increase of 20% and its share of the market had climbed to 45%. By contrast, olefin sales in the same period dropped 4% and its share of the business declined from 48% to 44%. It is still a neck-and-neck race between polyester and olefin for market dominance, but olefin (which reached a peak in market share of 47% in 199 1), seems to have lost some ground to polyester.

The nonwovens industry is by far the largest market for the olefin producers, absorbing about 60% of all olefin staple domestic sales. Carpets and broadwoven goods account for most of the balance. in polyester, by comparison, the nonwovens market accounts for 10-11% of the total domestic shipments. Knit goods, broadwoven fabrics, fiberfill and carpets are all much bigger markets for polyester than nonwovens.

Fiberfill Developments

After a big final quarter in 1992, sales of polyester fiberfill dropped off quite sharply (7%) in the opening quarter of 1993. At 97 million pounds, the shipments were also well below sales in the first quarter of 1992. A year ago, polyester fiberfill shipments were 109 million pounds, so that the latest figure represents a drop of 12 million pounds, or 11%. The figures for the recent past are (in million pounds):
 1990 1991 1992 1Q92 4Q92 1Q93
Nonwovens 240 237 244 55 67 66
Fiberfill 376 430 409 109 104 97
Total 616 667 653 164 171 163

Between 1990 and 1992, not only was fiberfill a larger market than nonwovens, it was also a faster-growing one. Over that time span, sales to the fiberfill market increased by 9%, while nonwovens grew only 2%. Since then, the fiberfill business, while still significantly larger than nonwovens, has faltered somewhat; the latest quarter's figure is the lowest for the last two years.
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Article Details
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Author:Harrison, David
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Article Type:Column
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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