The Unifi Story
The roots of the Unifi story actually began before the birth of the company's founder, George Allen Mebane IV, who was born in 1929 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Mr. Mebane's great-great-grandfather owned a cotton mill, the workings of which intrigued young Allen. After attending the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science (now known as Philadelphia University), Mr. Mebane spent the next 21 years working various textile jobs until investing in and opening Unifi in 1971. The corporate headquarters were established in Greensboro, N.C. and a polyester texturing plant was started in Yadkinville, North Carolina, which still remains in operation today.
Unifi prospered during the early and mid-1970's, but the popularity of polyester started to plunge by the late 70's. Dismissed by retailers and consumers as a fad, polyester's appeal faded as markets looked to natural fibers such as cotton, silk and wool.
During the downturn of the market, Unifi benefited from the initial strategy employed by Mebane and his management team of investing in cutting-edge manufacturing equipment. Today this strategy continues to provide the company with long-term cost and quality advantages over competitors in a price-sensitive market flooded with overcapacity.
Unifi began its international focus in the 80's. Pursuing new international customers in Latin America, South America, Australia, Israel, Africa, and the Far East, Unifi was among the first U.S. companies to begin selling to China when opening its doors to exports in 1980. Also vital was the Company's entrance into Europe, acquiring plants in Ireland and England. In addition, the Company diversified into nylon, developing a niche in the hosiery business. By 1991, Unifi was one of the largest manufacturers of polyester and nylon in the world.
With continuing success throughout the 1980's, the company experienced even greater expansion and profitability during the early 1990's. Even while the markets were down, Unifi's leadership emphasized long-term growth, exploring new markets for its polyester and nylon to increase the company's share of the market. During this time, many of its less efficient competitors were forced out of the industry. The collapsing market led to many acquisitions in the 90's and as a result, Unifi was better positioned to take advantage of recovering markets.
In the early 2000's, Unifi employed a new strategy to competitively position the company for the growing global competition. Unifi began investing in product innovation and marketing to provide its global customer base with differentiated products. Some of the new yarn developments included permanent properties such as odor control, UV protection and moisture management. As a part of the new marketing strategy, Unifi began branding its products with names like A.M.Y.®, MYNX® UV, SATURA®, SORBTEK® and the latest introduction, REPREVE®.
Today, Unifi is positioned for success. With a young, talented and experienced executive team, the company is poised to be more aggressive and action-oriented than ever before. Focusing on a diverse and innovative portfolio of brands, Unifi has built a sustainable foundation for continued long-term success, globally.