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HanesWinston Salem ? With its hosiery sales falling 18% for the first half of 2009, Hanesbrands is to end production at its Winston-Salem plant in North Carolina by the end of 2010, with the loss of 240 jobs.

The company attributed the closure of the 50-year-old Weeks plant to the long-term decline in consumer demand for sheer hosiery products with sales in 2008 also down by 14%.

Manufacturing will start slowing down in the second quarter of 2010 and cease by the end of the year.

The company?s sheer hosiery distribution operations at the Weeks plant, known as the East Coast distribution centre, will relocate to Hanesbrands? existing distribution centre in nearby Rural Hall by the second quarter of 2010. About 80 distribution employees at Weeks will be reassigned to work at the Almondridge centre.

The company, whose brands include Bali, Champion, Playtex and Wonderbra, said the shutdown of the plant would not impact its research, product development, quality control and engineering functions, which employ about 200, at the Weeks location. It will sell the 850,000-square-foot facility and lease it back once the hosiery production stops.

?As a result of lower consumer demand, our sheer-hosiery production volume has dropped to a point that it is no longer feasible to run the plant," said Bruce Duncan, the vice president of knit-to-shape manufacturing for the company.

Hanes Hosiery Mills Co. opened Weeks in 1960 ? then the largest manufacturing plant ever built in North Carolina ? spending the modern equivalent of about US$219 million. At the time, the plant had enough machines to double Hanes' previous annual production capacity to 100 million pairs of stockings.

At the end of 2008, Hanesbrands announced plans to close its last large knitted fabric plant in the US. This was followed in April with the closure of the Barnwell, South Carolina, sock-knitting plant which saw production transferred to El Salvador.

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