Fur sales at 20-year low & falling

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2009:
fur industry flacks are banging the drums to
proclaim that fur sales are making a comeback,
but the media echo is distinctly muted. More
designers were trying to sell fur in mid-2009 at
the London, Milan, New York, and Paris Fashion
Week shows, 164 in all, up from 156 in 2008,
but more sellers scarcely means more buyers.
Whatever publicity boost fur might have
gotten from the participation of eight more
designers was upstaged when French first lady
Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and U.S. first lady Michelle
Obama both let the world know that fur is not in
their wardrobes.

“I do not wear, buy or own fur,”
Bruni-Sarkozy wrote to People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals senior vice president Dan
Matthews, in a letter shared with major media.
“Every designer who kindly lends me clothes for
public appearances can tell you that I do not
accept to wear fur pieces,” Bruni-Sarkozy wrote,
“even when they are only a small part of the
“We have never written to Michelle Obama
about this issue because we have always known her
to be fur-free,” PETA spokesperson Amanda
Schinke told Stephanie Green and Elizabeth Glover
of the Washington Times. Green and Glover
checked with Mrs. Obama’s press secretary,
Semonti Mustaphi.
“Mrs. Obama does not wear fur,” Mustaphi affirmed.
Earlier, the fur trade enjoyed mid-May
2009 Gallup Poll findings that Republican Party
members rate of approval of wearing fur had
increased from 56% to 61% in a year’s
time–possibly influenced by the fur-flaunting
habits of 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah
Palin. But membership in the Republican Party
collapsed parallel to the collapse of the U.S.
economy in 2008, and Palin plummeted from
prominence following her July 26, 2009
resignation after serving only two and a half
years of a four-year term as governor of Alaska.
Her gubernatorial approval rating had fallen 39
points in less than a year. A Washington
Post/ABC News poll taken just before Palin left
office found that only 40% of the American public
retains a favorable view of her.
The bottom line for retail fur sales is
the bottom line, and with reportedly
catastrophic sales results from the winter of
2008-2009 yet to be disclosed, U.S. retail fur
sales had already fallen farther since 2005 than
at any time since the plunge from $1.85 billion
in 1988 to just $950 million in 1991.
Since 1992, U.S. retail fur sales had
climbed, parallel to inflation, to $1.82
billion in 2005–which was worth $1.1 billion in
1988 dollars. Then came a 12% drop to $1.61
billion in 2006, and an 18% plummet to $1.34
billion, according to Fur Information Council of
America figures. At that level, in
inflation-adjusted dollars, U.S. retail fur
sales had dropped to a third of the 1988 high.
That wasn’t all. After the collapse of
the Soviet Union opened the Russian fur market to
the outside world, Russian retail fur volume
rose to $5 billion per year. In 2008-2009,
however, the combination of economic uncertainty
and an unusually warm winter cut sales by half,
Russian Fur Union Sergei Stolbov spokesperson
admitted to Reuters.
Russia, itself a major producer of both
ranched and trapped pelts, has never been a big
buyer of low to medium-priced pelts from the
U.S., but in recent years has been the most
lucrative market for high-end trapped pelts.
From 2002 to 2006, U.S. trappers tripled sales
of bobcat pelts to Russia, for instance, to a
peak of 49,700. But just as conservation concern
about bobcat trapping begun to emerge in the
U.S., sales of any pelts to Russia fell.
U.S. mink farmers produced 2.8 million
pelts in 2008, down slightly from 2007, but
still a third below the volume of 20 years ago.
The average price paid for a ranched mink pelt at
auction fell 35% from 2007 to 2008, according to
the USDA, to $41.50. This was just 10ยข more than
the average price paid in 1996, and in
inflation-adjusted terms was $6.00 less the
average price paid for mink pelts when the market
bottomed out after the 1989-1991 crash.
The current fur sales slump appears to be
taking the U.S. alligator hide industry down with
“My father was in the fur and alligator
business. I started buying fur and alligators
when I was 13 years old,” Vermilion Gator Farm
owner Wayne Sagrera told Associated Press writer
Janet McConnaughey. “I’ve seen some slowdowns,”
said Sagrera, 65, of Abbeville, Louisiana,
“but nothing to compare to this.”
“Instead of taking the half million
alligator eggs from marshes and swamps that they
had in recent years, alligator farmers are
expected to pull in just 30,000 this year,”
McConnaughey wrote. “State wildlife officials
expect the 2009 harvest of adult gators to amount
to a small fraction of last year’s 35,500.” The
Louisiana alligator industry netted $71 million
in 2007. “Revenue is expected to be closer to
$10 million in 2009,” said McConnaughey.
The economic decline of the fur trade has
helped European anti-fur campaigners to make
legislative progress. Seven weeks after the
European Parliament on May 5, 2009 prohibited
importing seal pelts into the European Union,
the Dutch Parliament voted to ban mink farming,
effective in 2018, if the ban is ratified this
fall by the Dutch Senate. The Netherlands had
already banned fox and chinchilla farming,
through the efforts of the Dutch anti-fur group
Bont voor Dieren.
Producing five million mink pelts per
year, the Dutch mink industry is the world’s
third largest. Only Denmark and China currently
produce more.
“The Dutch decision is building momentum
for a fur free society,” predicted a World
Society for the Protection of Animals press
release, pointing out that “Denmark recently
banned fox farming,” while Austria, Croatia,
and Britain “already banned fur farming, and
Belgium and Ireland show willingness to follow
the example.”

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