U.S. retail fur industry didn’t get big holiday bounce–& did get Truth in Fur Labeling Act

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  January/February 2011:

– Experiencing sales declines of 15.5% in 2008 and 7% in 2009,  U.S. retail furriers ballyhooed hopes for a big comeback during the 2010 holiday season.  But the first available sales data suggests they didn’t get it.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that apparel sales were up 2.7%.  But the increase came mostly at department stores,  whose sales were up 2.8%,  not at high-end luxury boutiques.

The department store contribution to the U.S. retail fur trade consists chiefly of selling inexpensive fur-trimmed garments, mostly made abroad.

The biggest news for that branch of the fur trade during the 2010 holiday season was that U.S. President Barack Obama  on December 18 signed into law the Truth in Fur Labeling Act.

Taking effect in March 2011,  the Truth in Fur Labeling Act “finally closes a loophole in federal law that currently allows some animal fur garments to go unlabeled if the value of the fur is $150 or less,  leaving consumers in the dark as to whether they are buying faux or animal fur,” explained Humane Society Legislative Fund president Mike Markarian.

“Since the 1950s,”  Markarian elaborated,  “any fur garment sold in the U.S. has had to include a label indicating the species of animal used and the country of origin,  but the law has excluded fur-trimmed garments if the value of the fur is $150 or less.  At recent pelt prices,  that meant a jacket could have fur on its collar or cuffs from 30 rabbits,  nine chinchillas,  three foxes,  or three tanuki and still be sold without a label indicating the fur species. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that one in every eight fur garments doesn’t require labeling.”

Humane Society of the U.S. investigations have repeatedly embarrassed retailers in recent years by catching them selling garments trimmed with imported dog and cat fur.

The Dallas-based Nei-man Marcus chain,  for instance,  in late January 2010 agreed to pay a $25,000 judgement to settle a lawsuit brought by HSUS over the sale of garments with dog fur trim labeled “faux fur.”

Saks Fifth Avenue earlier settled a similar case brought by HSUS for $6,500.

Burlington Coat Factory,  Macy’s and J.C. Penney Co. in 2006 withdrew from sale a line of coats trimmed with the fur of tanuki,  a type of Asian wild dog,  though Penney later returned the coats to store racks.

An HSUS investigation in 2009 caught Neiman Marcus and Bergdof Goodman promoting mislabeled low-end fur products which would have violated the Endangered Species Act if they really had been what the advertisements said they were.

In actuality,  according to Neiman Marcus spokesperson Ginger Reeder,  the alleged “ocelot” boots that appeared in a web promotion were made from dyed goat hide.

U.S. retail fur sales in 2009 totaled $1.26 billion, representing a drop of 31% in five years,  according to Fur Information Council of America statistics.

U.S. retail fur sales of $1.82 billion in 2005 exceeded the all-time high of $1.8 billion reached in 1987,  but were barely half of the 1988 peak after adjustment for inflation.

U.S. retail fur sales in inflation-adjusted dollars are now at the lowest ebb since the fur industry began tracking the numbers in 1942.

The $332 million fur sales volume then,  in current dollars, would be worth $4.5 billion.  The fur sales volume now,  in 1942 dollars,  would be $90 million.

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