The Herald News, Monday, December 23, 2013 – Page A1
Fall River – Santa Claus might not live on Alden Street, but he definitely has some of his friends there on speed dial.
Northeast Knitting Mill and New England Shirt Company, both located in the Flint Mill, have been stars of the high-end catalogues this season.
The city of Fall River, Korber Hat and Vanson Leather all have co-starring roles.
On the website for Orvis of Manchester, Vt., Northeast Knitting’s cotton submariner’s sweater is featured. They had this to say about Fall River:
“A New England mill town that’s thrived for over 200 years.”
“Fall River, like many New England mill towns, is a prime example of the hard work that has been a defining trait of Americans, from colonization to modern times.”
L.L. Bean of Freeport, Maine, also singles out Fall River for praise on its website.
“Housing a group of talented, dedicated craftspeople, the New England Shirt Company provides over 100 stores around the world with their honest, timeless clothing,” L.L. Bean states.
“We have the New England Shirt in our core L.L. Bean line and in our L.L. Bean Signature line,’ said Eric Smith of L.L. Bean. “We also carried a sweater from (Northeast) Knitting. It sold out. We plan to carry another sweater in 2014.
“The New England Shirt Company is also doing well for us. We will carry that into 2014.”
Those two items are two of only three pieces from Massachusetts to make the Bean line up in 2013, Smith said. The store carried Navy-style peacoats made by Sterlingware of East Boston.
Both the shirt from New England Shirt and the sweater from Northeast Knitting were included as a test this year, Smith said.
“It was a bit of a trial for us,” he said. “We offered limited stock. They both did very well.
“There is a very large, vocal increase in demand for ‘Made-in-the-USA’ products. The challenge, really, is in the price point.”
People will pay $10 more for Made in the USA. Anything pricier than that can slow sales, Smith said.
The New England Shirt item sells for $105. Most of the shirts at L.L. Bean sell for $40 to $50.
“But more and more customers, especially our men’s customers, are willing to pay the difference,” Smith said. “That is especially true when the products are 100 percent made in the United States, which was the case with this sweater.”
“We’ve had a tremendous response to the made-in-America items we have,” said Daryl Kenny of Orvis. “We carry more than 500 items. We have one of the best records in the country for that.”
While the price of American-made goods is usually higher than products from a third-world country, Made in America carries with it a reputation for higher quality, Kenny said. At Orvis, customers value that. The Northeast Knitting sweaters offered at Orvis met those demands for quality, she said. At $98, the sweaters were in the general price range for Orvis sweaters.
“The sweaters have been very lucky for us,” said Christine Guerin, a product developer for Orvis. She brought the Northeast Knitting sweaters into the Orvis line.
“I go to Fall River fairly often,” she said. “We do business with Vanson Leather, Korber Hats and with Bob Kidder at New England Shirt.
“When we were in New England Shirt, we asked Bob if he knew a sweater man. He said yes, right here, and walked us over to meet Dan Reitzas and (Northeast) Knitting.”
Orvis has picked up products from both companies for 2014, she said.
And she is a fan of Fall River.
“You guys have a lot of industry, a lot of good companies,” she said. “It is great to see the businesses grow. The old mill buildings are wonderful.
“I see Fall River making a comeback. Bob (of New England Shirt) has done a great job. The city could do more.
“Once you get buyers from Japan and Europe, you could do really well.”
By Kevin P. O’Connor at firstname.lastname@example.org