A new report from the International Trade Commission (ITC) suggests that the market for worsted wool fabrics that are cut and sewn into men's (and boys') tailored clothing in the United States could be heading for another fall in 2002.

Demand declined in 2001 on lowered domestic production of men's tailored clothing, competition from imports of both the fabrics and tailored clothing, and uncertain economic conditions.

In its report 'Certain Wool Articles: Second Annual Report on US Market Conditions,' the ITC estimates the US market for these fabrics could drop to as low as 10-12 million square metres in 2002. The US market used around 19 million square metres in 2000, and 13-14 million square metres in 2001.

According to the report, apparent US consumption of men's wool tailored clothing generally declined in 2001 and the first quarter of 2002, reflecting the popularity of casual dress in the workplace. Imports continued to supply most of the US market for such clothing.

It also found a number of US tailored clothing manufacturers are experiencing financial difficulty due to declining sales, pressure from retailers to reduce prices, and import competition.

The manufacturers also attributed the decline in their domestic production to insufficient quantities and varieties of cost-competitive fabrics available in the United States compared with Canada and Mexico - major suppliers of tailored clothing that benefit from preferential market access under NAFTA.

US production capacity for worsted wool fabrics is expected to decline to about 19 million square metres by the end of 2002 the report believes.