Research Reports: A Valuable Tool for Getting Up to Speed in the Marketplace, Part 2

One example of a packaged market study that yields a goldmine of information to safety and PPE marketers is Frost & Sullivan's (F&S) report, “U.S. Fire Retardant Apparel Markets.”

The report examines fire-resistant products such as shirts, pants, coveralls and jackets. Fabric categories discussed include Vinex, Indura, Indura Ultra Soft, Nomex, Nomex/Rayon blend and fire-resistant denim.

In this report, which looks closely at both direct sale and rental channels, Frost & Sullivan estimated that fire-retardant (FR) apparel in the United States generated $250 million in direct sales and $1.6 billion in rental revenues during 2005.

Frost & Sullivan analysts explained that “the fire-resistant apparel market in the United States relies heavily on advanced materials and design, a situation that has historically helped it remain largely free of foreign competition. However, that situation is changing. As more manufacturers shift their production facilities offshore and more overseas manufacturers are licensed to produce these fabrics, then domestic manufacturers are increasingly feeling the pressure of intensified competition.”

Some of the industries that are major users of fire-resistant apparel include aluminum foundries, electric utilities, primary metals, food processing, electrical/wiring maintenance, petroleum refineries,chemical manufacturing, welding and fire services.

Market is in a State of Flux

The fire-resistant apparel industry in the United States currently is in a state of transition, according to Frost & Sullivan analysts. In the past, a relatively small group of domestic producers dominated the market. These manufacturers used a few standard fabrics. Today, distributors and garment rental firms are sourcing their garments from abroad.

What's more, the growth of the fire-resistant apparel market has attracted the attention of major workwear producers as well as global personal protective equipment manufacturers. These companies are bringing a more competitive attitude to the marketplace. What used to be an insulated domestic market with few players now has a new competitive zest.

In addition, huge enterprises like Cintas offer innovative marketing strategies and efficient supply chains and distribution channels. These firms also give customers the opportunity to satisfy their protective clothing and workwear requirements through a single vendor.

R&D

Research and development spending among these garment producers is on the upswing. They are working to develop more comfortable fire-resistant materials. Key innovations can help manufacturers snag market share from their competitors.

Key market drivers, say Frost & Sullivan analysts, include:

  • Regulatory mandates opening up new market opportunities
  • Increasing safety awareness
  • Fear of fines imposed by regulatory agencies
  • Desire to minimize worker downtime
  • Unions that insist on compliance

Several factors, though, say Frost & Sullivan experts, could have a chilling influence on the U.S. fire-resistant apparels market. According to the analysts, the low probability of OSHA inspections leads to reduced compliance, and end-user budget constraints limit expenditures to minimal compliance levels. In addition, discomfort and acceptance of risk help to limit usage, while lack of clarity in existing regulations slows down compliance.

Another F&S report that should be of interest to safety marketers is “U.S. Markets for (CBN) Industrial Protective Apparel.” This report was issued in mid-2006, and covers a wide range of topics.

The report offers an extensive overview of the protective apparel worn in the chemical, biological and nuclear industries (CBN). Frost & Sullivan's analysts looked at the entire CBN marketplace and its need for protective apparel.

The report examines national market size, as well as a snapshot of revenues in the protective apparel sector. Also in this report: An analysis of key market drivers, restraints and trends that are impacting the protective apparel market.

This report is available through the F&S Chemicals and Materials Growth Partnership Service program. F&S clients receive market research, including this protective apparel report, along with technical and econometric data and several interactive features including Analyst Inquiry Time and Client Councils.

What's Driving the Market?

New regulations and legislation that enforce and enhance protection against occupational hazards are driving the CBN industrial protective apparel market. According to F&S analysts, this market has witnessed high growth rates, especially in the chemical industrial protective apparel sector.

“Employers and workers are becoming increasingly aware of personal protection. This continues to feed the demand in the industrial protective apparel market. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is one of the organizations, which meticulously outline the requirements of an employer regarding the safety of his employees. The Occupational Health and Safety Act prescribes the different performance standards and scenarios for various protective apparels,” explained F&S analysts in a report summary.

Another factor in the marketplace, reported the lead analyst on the F&S Chemicals and Materials Growth Partnership Service, is the fact that “the CBN industrial protective apparel market is striving to cater to the needs of a service-oriented economy. Competition in this market is high, yet primarily domestic with little or no interference from foreign competitors. The stiff competition has resulted in tremendous pressure on apparel prices.

“While this factor could be considered a challenge, commoditization of several apparels has led to lower price points. This has increased the number of competitors within the markets, and also encouraged several new entrants.”

Technological Advances Cater to a Growing Market

The CBN industrial protective apparel is a mature market, and its growth rate is likely to remain stable, F&S market experts predicted. Increasing competition, however, is forcing manufacturers to invest in research to develop complete product lines. This will enable vendors to carve out a niche for themselves in the market.

As a result, manufacturers are working to achieve greater comfort, reduced weight of the product, enhanced visibility and mobility, improved particle holdout and greater breathability

Advanced materials and fabrics are therefore being used to enhance the quality and performance of protective apparels. “Sensitivity to environmental impact of these protective apparels is likely to challenge manufacturers that are now looking for materials that are biodegradable, reusable or recyclable and eco-friendly,” noted the F&S industry analyst.

In addition, several companies are implementing customer feedback programs to help them better understand key product issues among end users.

Study Updates

Frost & Sullivan updates its studies covering the personal protective equipment market, including industrial protective clothing and flame-retardant clothing every 2 to 3 years, Vivek Tapuriah told EHS Today. Tapuriah is research manager of Chemicals, Materials & Food Industries at Frost & Sullivan.

“We do studies for different areas and topics on a continual basis. In 2008, we'll be working on reports covering respiratory protection and gas detection,” Tapuriah explained to EHS Today. “Next year, we may do reports that focus on industrial gloves and/or protective clothing. We keep alternating the subject areas.”

Marketing executives at safety equipment manufacturers should monitor the Frost & Sullivan Web site at http://www.frost.com for updates.


Michael Keating is the research editor for EHS Today. He can be reached at [email protected].

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