Monday, December 29, 2014

With help from Walmart, new devices and stagnant wages, U.S. sock makers ramp up production

The American sock industry, once all but dead, has been revived by "changes in technology, attitudes and costs," James R. Hagerty reports for The Wall Street Journal from rural Hildebran, N.C., just west of Hickory, where a Canadian designer-marketer who had given up manufacturing has reactivated an old plant to make socks for Walmart.

The new technology is in Italian machines that knit and seam socks in the same process, requiring about half the number of workers. The attitude change is at Walmart, "which is trying to reduce its heavy reliance on imports" and is giving more shelf space to U.S.-made products, Hagerty writes. Costs? American manufacturing has become more competitive with China because "average manufacturing wages in the U.S. have risen less than 2 percent annually over the past five years, while those in China have about doubled since 2008."

"For similar reasons, other sock makers are investing in the U.S.," Hagerty reports, but adds, "Some producers are still heading overseas. . . . Employment in U.S. hosiery and sock mills totals about 8,600, one quarter of the tally for 2001. The U.S. sock-making industry has shrunk so drastically that its trade group, the Hosiery Association, disbanded in 2013." (Read more)

No comments: