FR clothing boom attracts entrepreneurs
“The availability of clothing… is at an all-time high”
The flame-resistant (FR) clothing market has soared in the past five to ten years, paralleling the nation’s booming oil and gas industry. New York City-based bank Citi recently released research stating: “The U.S. has very rapidly become a powerhouse as an exporter of finished petroleum products… with gross exports expected to reach a combined five million barrels a day or more by the end of 2014, up a stunning four million barrels a day since 2005.”
The New York City TV police drama, “The Naked City,” which ran from 1958 to 1963, was famous for its introduction every week: “There are eight million stories in the naked city…” Well, today there is a plethora of stories about how FR clothing entrepreneurs are riding the oil and gas boom.
Take, for instance, this recent report from “The Tribune,” a regional newspaper serving Greeley and Weld Counties in Colorado: “If oil industry workers couldn’t find the right clothing in the Greeley area before, they sure can today. The availability of flame resistant clothing — an industry standard, worksite requirement and must-have for anyone who works in the oil field — is at an all-time high in the Greeley area with the recent boom in the industry.”
Frackin’ Hot FR and Safety Apparel recently opened its doors in Greeley, joining several other FR clothing outlets, including a safety and supply distributor and a boots, western and work wear store. Frackin Hot FR is new to the clothing industry, started by a woman, who has owned and operated a business called Northern Colorado Traffic Control, selling traffic control supplies and equipment for 21 years, the paper reported.
Seamstress in demand
In Dickinson, North Dakota, the “Oil Patch Dispatch” reported that wedding seamstress Virginia Wock has 10 bags of oilfield clothing in need of repairs. She is in demand to alter and repair fire-resistant clothing for workers who come to North Dakota from all over the country. Wock often works at least 60 hours a week. She once hemmed at least nine pairs of coveralls on a Saturday so the workers could begin training on Sunday.
Then there is the story of a woman who migrated from her native Michigan to western Pennsylvania, chasing the Marcellus Shale boom. Four years later, she was selling millions of dollars of fireproof clothing and safety equipment out of two retail stores, with a third on the way, reported CNNMoney.
The idea for her new business hit her while she was trying to buy fireproof hooded sweatshirts to give her trucking employees for a training event. “There just wasn’t a store around that offered this clothing at worker prices,” she told CNNMoney.
In April 2012, she opened Oil and Gas Safety Supply in Washington, Pa. Sales were brisk from the start. The hard part was figuring out what the workers wanted and keeping up with inventory. She polled friends, asked customers for advice, and looked in field manuals for the type of gear oil and gas companies required.
Finally, from western North Dakota comes the weekly “Griggs Dakota” blog written by a family of farmers, which posted last October the many ways you can tell if you live in an oil boom town, including “...most stores sell at least some FR — flame resistant — clothing. And not just the clothing stores. Our Ace Hardware store has a whole FR clothing section.”