American fabric producer has an international flair
By Staff -- Home Textiles Today, 6/9/2003 12:00:00 AM
NEW YORK —
In eight years, American Decorative Fabrics has soared from its beginning as a converter to a major decorative fabric mill with revenues exceeding $70 million.
In late 1995 the company started as a supplier to a few New York converters "with a decent seven figure sales," explained David Li, ceo. "But then we looked into the future and decided to go direct to manufacturers, retailers, jobbers and converters, and today we have more than 1,000 accounts," he added.
The company began in 1991 in China. "My parents started a business that was one of the first importers of U.S.-made fabrics and wall coverings. It was quite successful, and we did lots of hotels," Li explained.
In 1992 the family firm became "aggressive in exporting fabrics from China. In fact we were probably the first to start to make decorative fabrics and export them. We first worked with government-owned mills, and that was tough and very challenging. We really had to control our destiny."
The company was among the first to have a privately owned fabric plant, Li explained, and today it has expanded to eight plants in China: six weaving mills, two for cut and sew, one for decorative trimming and one for heat transfer printing, both on paper and fabric. The latter, Li added, can range from 54" widths to 110" widths." Included in the weaving mills is a silk jacquard facility purchased last May.
The company has been expanding its product mix, with its fabric range extending from dobbies to jacquards, matelassés, tapestries, heat transfer, drapery weights, denim jac-quards and now silks.
Cut and sew, a new segment of the business — and the fastest growing, Li said — embraces both the furniture trade and the gamut of home fashions products. It now represents about a third of the company's volume, Li said.
And the eight-year-old American business, headed by Li, is expanding dramatically in its scope and facilities. Jack Cobb, a veteran textile executive, joined ADF in April as president; Gary Stein, another textile veteran who has been with ADF for two years, is now coo; and Erica Youngleson has joined the firm as director of design.
"Gary brought us knowledge of how to serve the jobber and national retail channels, which is now one of our most profitable business segments," Li said. "And, we needed a top-notch person who knows how to run a better mill," he said, referring to Cobb.
To expedite what Stein calls "one of the company's key strengths — service," ADF has completed the purchase of a 275,000-sq.-ft. distribution center in Gaffney, SC. "Our new computer system that monitors our inventory is set to ship in-stock skus in 48 hours. We're not there yet, but we're close," Stein said.
With competition heating up in the Chinese market, design and product introductions are other key elements in the company's growth strategy. "Our real challenge is to keep ahead in design," said Cobb, who also pointed out that "we also copyright our designs. This business is all about original designs, not a pure price thing. We seldom lose a placement based on design. The only thing that will separate us from the price competition is product development. We've got lots of company now. We have to have the best."
The company has about 4,000 skus, with about 99 percent of them in open line designs. The new line, Li said, will have more than 100 patterns. Price points start at $2.25 and go up to $12.95.
And, most important, Cobb emphasized "one's distribution has to be clean."
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