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

A prime source of packaged market studies is the Freedonia Group (Cleveland, Ohio, http://www.freedoniagroup.com). This international business research company, founded in 1985, publishes more than 100 industry research studies annually. Industry analysts at Freedonia offer reliable assessments of a variety of industries.

Freedonia studies include product and market forecasts, industry trends, threats and opportunities, competitive strategies, market share estimates and company profiles. More than 90 percent of the industrial companies in the Fortune 500 use Freedonia research to help with their strategic planning.

Freedonia's research provides industry knowledge through in-depth discussions of important industry activity and profiles of key industry players. The Freedonia Group publishes approximately 10 new titles each month. The reports combine product and market analyses into a neat, concise package that can be purchased and downloaded. Freedonia also sells individual chapters and pages from its studies.

In addition, Freedonia offers Focus reports that provide insights in 18 industry categories through 425 reports. Each report is about 15 pages, and offers Freedonia's concise outlook for the industry.

Besides marketers, other corporate executives rely on Freedonia studies. Freedonia's research can help executives determine market and sales potential, assess new products and competitors, identify merger and acquisition targets and complement an organization's internal research for mid- and long-term planning.

Corporate executives, for instance, have come to rely on Freedonia Custom Research, which can help organizations answer specific questions and address issues such as:

  • New product launches/development
  • Geographic expansion
  • Entry into new markets
  • Investment and funding decisions

When putting together market and industry reports, Freedonia's team of analysts begins by scouring trade publications, government source books, proprietary databases, product literature and annual and industry reports to find out what industry professionals have to say. To this, Freedonia adds information gained by extensive interviews with major players as well as knowledgeable industry participants.

One example of a packaged market study that yields a goldmine of information to safety and PPE marketers is the Freedonia Group's “Coated Fabrics to 2010” report (Study #2143), which was published in February 2007. There's a wealth of data, tables and charts in the study's 319 pages.

According to Freedonia study #2143, “Protective clothing is one of the fastest growing markets for coated fabrics. The protective clothing market was one of the four largest markets for coated fabrics in 2005, with eleven percent of sales. Protective clothing is designed to shelter the wearer from chemical, biological, heat and other risks in chemical, agricultural, medical, military and other industrial markets.”

The report noted that consumer-oriented clothing products, such as raincoats and hats, fishing waders and other sporting and outdoor clothing, are not included under the protective clothing category, but are included under the category of “other markets.”

Market Demand

Demand for coated fabrics in protective clothing applications is forecast to advance 6.7 percent annually to 90 million square yards in 2010, Freedonia predicted in this report. Freedonia analysts noted, “Advances will continue to be driven by the ongoing need to add and update U.S. military equipment as it becomes damaged or wears out. Additional gains will stem from interest on the part of the federal, state and local first response agencies to be better prepared for possible terrorist attacks using nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, although the level of spending is expected to decline from the historically high levels immediately following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.”

Freedonia's report noted, “In general terms, sales of coated fabrics benefit from increasingly strict regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding the use of protective clothing.”

Demand for coated, fabric-based protective clothing, explained Freedonia analysts, also will increase because of “projected growth in shipments of products from industries such as electrical and electronic equipment, and, to a lesser degree, chemicals.” These industries, noted the report, require the level of protection afforded by coated, fabric-based protective clothing.

Continuing interest in disposable clothing for lower-level hazards, said the report, will lessen demand for coated, fabric-based protective clothing. Disposable versions are more expensive in the long run and create hazardous waste, but also are less expensive in terms of initial costs, and limit potential for cross contamination during transportation, washing and storage.

Sales to the Military

What's driving sales to the military and emergency crews? The growing interest in the military and first responder markets stems from the desire for a higher level of preparedness following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the discovery of anthrax sent through the U.S. mail that fall. Since then, first responders have received some government funds and have seen increased appropriations from other sources in order to purchase up-to-date protective apparel.

Additionally, the activation and repeated rotation of many military reserve and National Guard units between 2001 and 2005 also boosted demand as appropriate protective gear was required for these soldiers. Replacement gear, said the report, “is also required periodically for those on active duty.”

Although military demand for full chemical suits slowed when the initial concern of chemical attacks in Iraq diminished, other types of protective clothing, including those designed to protect the wearer from fire, still must be replaced and upgraded on a regular basis.

A variety of niche marketing opportunities have presented themselves because this market is receptive to new technological innovations. However, Freedonia analysts noted, “In order for a material or completed clothing item to be accepted by the regulatory agencies and end users, the material and finished clothing item must undergo rigorous, lengthy and often expensive testing procedures. As a result, end users often favor established products and suppliers.”

Future introductions of new-technology materials in protective clothing that better guard against heat stress may reduce future sales of coated fabrics, said Freedonia analysts.

What's driving the replacement market? Although coated fabric-based protective clothing is not generally considered disposable, it still must be replaced periodically. If the product is used regularly, the coating or lamination can wash off or degrade, diminishing its protective capability. Even if the product is simply stored so that it will be available in an emergency, it must be replaced regularly, because the fabric may degrade and the coating may flake off the surface.

What's more, some kinds of fabric coatings, even though intended to be pliable, can become brittle over time. Because of the risk involved, replacement often occurs at regular intervals whether or not the fabric shows signs of diminished protective capabilities. The average life span of unused protective suits, said Freedonia analysts, usually is about 5 years.

“Because these products have a finite shelf life, users typically do not maintain a stock of coated fabrics for these applications or completed protective clothing larger than they are likely to use within 5 years,” said Freedonia analysts.

In this Coated Fabrics report (Freedonia study #2143), Freedonia analysts profiled many leading manufacturers. Here's some information from one of the profiles:

“DuPont, one of the leading suppliers of coated fabrics to the protective clothing market, is a fully integrated supplier. The company produces substrates and base fibers, including Kevlar, Nomex and Tyvek, as well as coated fabrics and finished protective clothing. The company also offers its fibers and substrate fabrics to other coated fabric producers. Other suppliers of coated fabrics to the protective clothing market include Brookwood Laminating, Burlington WorldWide, Highland Industries, OMNOVA Solutions, Saint-Gobain and Shawmut.”

The table on the previous page offers some Freedonia Group estimates on the market for coated fabrics in protective clothing.


Michael Keating is the research editor for EHS Today. He can be reached at michael.keating@penton.com.

Protective Clothing Market for Coated Fabrics
Year 2005 2010 2015
Coated Nylon 37 53 71
Coated Polyester 17 23 29
Coated Fabrics in Protective Clothing (total) 65 90 120
Source: Freedonia Group study number 2143
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