In 1960, cotton apparel and home fabrics accounted for about 78% of all textile products sold at retail. By 1975, that share had plummeted to an all-time low of 34%, due to the successful incursion of synthetic fibers in the marketplace, threatening the extinction of cotton as a viable commercial commodity.
Historically, cotton farmers ended their involvement with a crop at point-of-sale, confident in the market's ability to take up the cotton crop. But the new competition from petroleum-based fiber producers presented a major disadvantage for cotton, as polyester was aggressively marketed and merchandised at every point throughout the pipeline: from mills and manufacturers, to retailers and consumers.
Reacting to the serious erosion in cotton's consumer market share, producers in the High Plains of Texas called for a collective national marketing and research effort. With support from regional producer organizations, the cotton growers were successful in petitioning Congress into passing the Cotton Research and Promotion Act of 1966. The act established a funding mechanism, based on producer assessments, for the purpose of conducting a wide scale effort to recapture cotton's market share.
This funding mechanism led ultimately to the creation of Cotton Incorporated in 1970. From its inaugural year, the company faced a steadily declining market share, with little product available at retail except for denim jeans, T-shirts and bath towels. In addition, consumers had become increasingly enamored of the ease-of-care synthetic products, and textile mills had moved away from the production of cotton.
From the beginning, Cotton Incorporated adopted a "push/pull" marketing strategy. The objective was to "push" cotton textile innovations into the market through product and process development, while building consumer demand, or a "pull," through advertising and promotion.
By 1983, Cotton Incorporated succeeded in curtailing share decline, and a long steady period of increasing consumer popularity and share growth resulted. Today, cotton can be found on store shelves everywhere in most products categories and cotton share is more than 60% of the marketplace.
The following timeline describes some of the more notable Cotton Incorporated milestones and strategic initiatives, which have helped the company achieve cotton's current share of the home and apparel textile markets: