13458 Fri, 01/04/2008 - 3:38pm
Walk into any store selling sheets and towels and such in the United States, and it’s almost like getting a geography lesson like when you were back in high school.
There are twin sheets from Sri Lanka, towels from India, tablecloths from Vietnam, sheet sets from Bahrain, top of the bed from China, curtains from Turkey and all kinds of other goods from virtually all of the four corners of the globe.
Today’s modern textiles buyer pretty much resembles Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in their “Road to” series, although we’re pretty sure they never made it as far as Bangladesh.
With the exception of the apparel fashion business, there probably isn’t another product category in the world that is more international in the scope of its manufacturing.
What’s remarkable is how relatively new this is. As recently as two decades ago, the vast majority of home textiles products were made domestically. How quickly and dramatically this changed is a subject best left to historians and archivists. Those in the business who’ve had to live through the transition certainly don’t need to be reminded of how huge a change this represents.
Nobody much likes change, especially big change, and there are those who will tell you things like NAFTA and the WTO were the worst things that ever happened to American business. And they can make a pretty strong case for it, too.
But maybe, just maybe, globalization is a good thing for the industry. Maybe it’s allowed products to be made less expensively and therefore more available to more Americans. Maybe for every manufacturing job lost, there have been jobs created in marketing, distribution and logistics. Maybe it’s even helped the world become a safer and more rational place by spreading the wealth around, even if it’s just a little bit.
Sometime this year, the last big looms in America still making home textiles products will shut down, silenced probably forever by the shifting tides of trade. But if you look at it another way, every time a loom closes, another one opens someplace else.
And the planet is woven a little more tightly together.-Warren Shoulberg