Is Relief In Sight?

By Karen Bitz McIntyre | December 11, 2008

In 2008, the global banking industry collapsed, the U.S. automotive industry faced the possibility of bankruptcy, thousands—or perhaps millions—lost their jobs—not to mention the millions of dollars gone from retirement accounts and other investment accounts. As this issue goes to press, retailers are about to face what could possibly be their bleakest holiday shopping season on record. Even stores favored by clientele who shun the word discount are running sales in an effort to encourage customers—who are constantly hearing media reports of lay-offs, failed companies and credit crunches—to spend some cash.

To say these are scary times doesn't begin to describe the situation currently going on in the world economy. Health care costs are soaring, many can't even think about retiring. Prices are up while in many cases salaries are down. People are unable to pay their mortgages and other household bills.

Amidst this turmoil, one bright spot is slowly emerging. After a year of seemingly constant increases, oil prices are finally trending downward. For consumers, this means relief at the pump and will translate into lower home heating costs come this winter; for manufacturing it means lower operating costs in general. And, for the nonwovens industry it means a respite from the historically high raw material prices that have been paralyzing many producers for the last 12 months.

In our annual look at suppliers to the hygiene markets (see page 26), producers of films, fasteners and other components of diapers, feminine hygiene items and adult incontinence products are finally able to look toward innovation—instead of spending the bulk of their time combating raw material prices. What this will mean for the hygiene market remains to be seen. Some argue that innovation has already maxxed out in most disposable segments, but others will argue that new products and features are needed to help baby boomers transition into their golden years.

Let's just hope that the economy will be finding some bright spots beyond the gas pump in 2009.

Karen Bitz McIntyre

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