FUR

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1993:

ARE FUR SALES UP OR DOWN?
U.S. retail fur sales rose to $1.1
billion in 1992, ending a four-year slump
during which sales fell from $1.8 billion to
just $1 billion––says the Fur Information
Council of America.
But the FICA figures, published
in the September 21 Wall Street Journal,
are open to question––not least because it’s
hard to boost sales with markedly fewer
sales outlets. Nearly half the fur retail out-
lets of five years ago are now out of the fur
business. Among them are 34 of the 50 out-
lets formerly owned by Evans Inc., which
controlled 10% of the U.S. retail fur trade;
20 of the 49 Jindo and Fur Vault franchises;
and the entire Furrari and Antonovich
chains, both of which went bankrupt.

Most of the closures, however,
were boutiques within clothing stores,
rather than fur specialists who account for
most of the FICA membership. The num-
ber of FICA wholesalers fell from 200 to
150, but the FICA retail roster dropped
only from 2,400 to 2,200. The FICA sales
figures are based, as always, on a member-
ship poll. Even if the 1992 poll brought a
representative return, the margin of error
could be 40% if the projected share of sales
by non-FICA members didn’t take into
account the loss of outlets.
Even more telling is the “Fur Price
Index” kept by ANIMAL PEOPLE editor
Merritt Clifton since the winter of 1987-
1988. The advertised price of mink coats
last winter, which account for about 80% of
all fur sales, hit the lowest level in infla-
tion-adjusted dollars since 1953, accompa-
nied by even steeper declines in the prices
of coats made from foxes, raccoons, coy-
otes, and lynx. To significantly increase
income despite prices that often fell below
manufacturing cost would be unlikely.
Projecting from the Fur Price
Index, and calibrating the projection against
the price/revenue ratios of previous years,
Clifton predicted last December that aver-
age sales per remaining retailer would be up
because of the declining number of retail
outlets, and that profits would increase too,
since surviving retailers were purchasing
stock from bankrupt rivals for as little as 5%
of list value. Nonetheless, total retail fur
sales figured to be between $648 million
and $740 million––a decrease from $850
million the previous winter, when the Fur
Price Index projected sales of $950 million.
“FICA could be right and I could
be wrong,” Clifton said. “The nature of
estimates is that they include a margin of
error. But it’s good publicity for fur to have
the media heralding a turn-around, whether
or not there really is one, and if furriers can
increase their gross by selling at lower
prices from fewer stores, they’re rewriting
the rules of business economics.”
–––––––––
FICA’s new director of media
relations and government affairs is Karen
Handel, former deputy chief of staff for
Marilyn Quayle, wife for former vice presi-
dent Dan Quayle.
Only one fur garment appeared
in the whole 107-page Fashion of the Times
fall fashion supplement to The New York
Times––and that was in a paid ad.
Trapping accounted for 90% of
all pine marten deaths from 1989 through
1992, according to an ongoing study of the
scarce species in Baxter State Park, Maine.
Some environmentalists claim pine martens
have become scarce because of the loss of
old growth forest, but University of Maine
researcher Dan Harrison notes that those in
the study have raised litters successfully in
areas with as little as 3% old growth.
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