McKissick informs Alice employees of progress

Smythe Mckissick poses with First Baptist Easley minister Dr. John Adams.

Smythe Mckissick poses with First Baptist Easley minister Dr. John Adams.

By Ben Robinson, Courier Staff

EASLEY — Smythe McKissick grew up in the Alice Manufacturing empire. Last Tuesday, he shared with Alice employees the latest news about moves the company has made during the past few years to make sure it is competitive for many more years to come.

McKissick spoke at the company’s dinner for members of its 25-year club. Hundreds of Alice employees gathered in the gymnasium of First Baptist Church Easley to celebrate the holiday season.

McKissick said when the textile industry faced tough times 20 years ago as foreign imports flooded the market, Alice leaders had to find a way to be competitive. A good part of that action involved the Ellison division of the company.

“The Ellison division is a company inside our company,” McKissick said, “Gosh, I guess 11 years ago it was just a twinkle in our eyes. It was just an idea. Now it’s a very prosperous and growing company, and what that Ellison division does, it allows us to provide fashion bedroom direct to retail.

“And what we wanted to do is we looked at the supply channel, we wanted to make sure we could control the fashion, the design of the products we sell. That’s why we created that division, so we’ll take our fabrics or anybody else’s. We have them finished. We have them cut and sewed. We have our designers put the designs on the fabric, and we go to retail, and we drive quality, and we drive customer service. So that been one of our most significant strategies _ get closer to the consumer. As we’ve done that, it’s allowed us to participate in Internet sales.”

McKissick admitted that originally company officials had no idea how big of an impact Internet sales would have on business, but reported that during the most recent “Black Friday” weekend an estimated 40 percent of sales were made online.

“Through our Ellison division, we can couple ourselves with these great retailers and we can participate in those Internet sales,” McKissick said. “So that’s been terrific for us.”

Alice has also successfully started serving the healthcare apparel market, McKissick said.

Alice has also become more involved in import sales, serving Mexico and countries in the Carribean basin and others.

“You’re loved down in that region for your quality, for your service and for those kind of things,” McKissick told the employees.

McKissick was also excited about a new cotton sheet set Alice is marketing.

“I saw the fabric for the first time three weeks ago,” McKissick said. “The fabric feels like butter.”

The new sheet set will be sold directly to retail outlets, McKissick said.

McKissick that the company has change greatly in its 90-year history.

“Now we’re actually a different company,” McKissick said. “We look so much different than we did 25, 50 years ago. But there are some core principles out there that have guided us since my grandfather was a young person, and those core principles are as important today as they have ever been.”

The first is to appreciate the employees who create Alice Yarns.

McKissick called the employees the backbone of the company, saying the First Baptist gymnasium was essentially holding one big family.

McKissick said the company now produces three times as much fabric per person as it did when he first started with the company as a teenager in 1973.

McKissick said he was very proud of the company.

“We’re proud of the United States, we’re proud of South Carolina,” McKissick said. “Most especially, we’re proud of Pickens County and Easley and where we are, and that will always be the driver as long as our family is involved in this company.”