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Queen Mary University of LondonQueen Mary University of London
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School of Engineering and Materials Science
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PhD Thesis: Going against the Grain: the De-Maturity of the European Textile Industry

Author: FIANTI, Noor

Year: 2010

Supervisor(s): Stuart Peters, Mike Reece

This thesis aims to challenge the conventional assumption about the irreversibility of the decline of the textile industry in developed countries. It is argued that the decline can be reversed if mature textile firms can break away from their traditional routines and practices and radically and continuously change their technologies, markets and organisational structure to adapt to the rapidly changing business environment.

Using the European textile industry as a case study, this thesis shows that a number of European countries, including Germany and The Netherlands, have managed to bypass the maturity-trap – a phenomenon commonly found in large mature firms because of an inability to adapt to changing external conditions- through industrial reconfiguration from the 1960s onwards. The majority of the industry, however, has been in relative decline over the past decade as the market has become much more competitive and consequently made their old strategies obsolete. Under such circumstances, there is an urgent need to turn the industry around.

Learning from the failure of the Courtaulds (UK) and the success of Ten Crate (NL) and Freudenberg (DE), the thesis illustrates how the maturity-trap can take hold and how the process of de-maturity can be initiated at the firm level. The case study of Marzotto highlights how the danger of the maturity-trap is now no longer just a British phenomenon. This once highly successful firm is now in great danger of falling into the maturity-trap. The issue at stake is the long-term survival of the European textile industry and how rapidly its long-term competitiveness can be restored.