ABSTRACT Purpose: This article aims to describe the absorptive capacity (ACAP) of textile manufacturing industrial companies of Sergipe state, Brazil, for the signals captured from the environment, indicating the need for innovation in response to changes in the market. The theoretical bases of absorptive capacity postulate that a company that develops this capacity has the ability to recognize the information value, assimilate it, and apply it for commercial purposes. They can develop skills that allow them to achieve competitive advantage. Originality/value: From the theoretical point of view, the factors that stimulate the apparel companies to recognize, assimilate, transform, and exploit the external knowledge were listed. Regarding the practical contributions, the study can provide references to organizations wishing to extend or develop the absorption of new knowledge, so this can promote improvement in organizational activity and innovation. Design/methodology/approach: For the study, it was built a qualitative data collection instrument. The instrument had been applied in seven companies with innovative characteristics when compared to the local competition. Companies are micro to medium-sized and develop innovations in process and marketing. Findings: The result shows that the analyzed companies look for renewal of existing knowledge and assimilate the external information to adapt and transform their organizational strategies. The exploitation of knowledge occurs from relationships with customers and suppliers, prior knowledge of leadership and organization existing structure. Companies with best ACAP were those who faced direct competition. This fact has created incentives for the search for information to differentiate the companies and make them competitive.