Fur Market Unsettled – November 2008 Report

GENERAL OUTLOOK
Worldwide economic turmoil, wars, rumors of wars; not exactly the setting we were anticipating this fur season. Wall Street markets have been in free-fall for weeks. Trillions of dollars have been lost, banks are being gobbled up or closing their doors.

Retailers, fearful of the prospects of tighter credit, are reducing inventories and offering deep discounts on the goods on hand. Personal bankruptcies spiked in September, reaching record highs as the housing markets collapse. More than a dozen major domestic retailers are operating in bankruptcy, among them several vendors of furs and fur trimmed garments.

It has been said: “When the U.S. economy catches a cold, the rest of the world suffers pneumonia.” Most foreign markets — certainly Russia’s, China’s and Japan’s — went into a tail-spin in the wake of the U.S. markets; China has since started a recovery … not so in Russia. Citizens in the former Soviet Union countries — some of our major fur consumers — are understandably hunkered down waiting on “what’s next?”

This all seems to be like a replay of October 1987 when the fur market crashed, not to even begin a modest recovery for over a decade.

Well, if there is an indicator of the faith and optimism fur traders have in the coming season, we got a peek at that in recent weeks.

Over 4 million ranch mink went across the auction block in Copenhagen, Denmark, just as the financial markets were going into nose-dive. Consisting mostly of breeders and low grades, this last-of-the-season sale was a “barn-burner.”

According to reports, over 500 buyers — a record gathering — took 100 percent of the goods at prices far exceeding officials’ expectations. Prices were up 20 percent over levels posted on the June auction. The majority — over 300 — of the bidders were from China, with the Russians making a strong showing.

And, as if that’s not a strong enough indicator, the following week many of the same buyers assembled in Helsinki and took away the entire offering, again at high prices.
How all of this activity will play out in the wild markets is anybody’s guess. But the indicators are nowhere as gloomy as the world events that are presently unfolding around us.

MARKET BRIEFS

BEAVER: Last season, the harvest fell far short of expectations resulting in late season price spikes. Long-haired types, those used natural, are likely to hold as the demand in Eastern Europe, Russia and China appear to be growing. The select, heavy shearable goods could see some minor retractions due to slower high fashion retail activity. The shearable types depend almost exclusively on North America and Western European fashion houses. Presently, high-end furriers and leading department stores are anticipating a fairly bleak season. However, since these markets develop late in the season, manufacturers will have time to assess the strength of the retail trade. The overall market seems solid, but wet goods will see even less interest than last season. Labor cost is a major factor.

MUSKRAT: Something of a wild-card. Recent late-season ranch mink offerings in the Scandinavian trade centers have posted some remarkably high prices considering the low-grade nature of the collections. This is expected to have a positive impact on the muskrat market. Look for buyers to be a bit shy about pushing prices early in season. The harvest is expected to once again be short as trappers pursue more valuable species. The short harvest last season threw a late demand and it’s likely we’ll see a replay.

WILD MINK: There is simply too many ranch mink and too few buyers to throw any significant demand on the wild counterpart. Italy is expected to set the tone with a limit number of takers in Russia and Greece. Prices have edged upward in recent years, but only slightly, mostly reflecting the strong Euro and weak dollar. The dollar had made substantial gains against most foreign currencies since last season. That could set this market back a year or so.

RACCOON: Manufacturers and consumers alike are becoming far more selective as to color and primeness. Clearances have been good through private treaty sales and at the auction houses. With exception of a few low grades and coat types there is very little in the way of carryover collections. Buyers are expected to be very cautious in the opening days of the season due to the lack of firm information. Goods will be graded hard as to size and color. Even the good color (silvery) pelts with weak bellies and thin flanks will be cheap. Because of firmer prices late last season and the rumors circulating of $40 and $50 offers, the buyers I have spoken with anticipate seeing a great many un-prime skins early in the year. Understandably, if offers are made on these early goods, they will be very low. Hopefully, this will dispels the rumors of “getting rich quick” chasing raccoon.

OTTER: No one is actually pleased with the prices currently being paid, but at least the collections are moving again. Once these adventurous manufacturers and designers are comfortable with the item, and if there is consumer acceptance, prices are expected to edge upward. That is expected to take a few years. The present demand is on blacks and dark browns. Pales, that once demanded premium prices, will continue to be cheap. Now that the world spotlight is off China and the Olympics are history, I suspect the Chinese will come back into the market…slowly.

RED FOX: There is little question that the high fashion, luxury markets in North America and Western Europe have a rough season ahead of them. Retail furriers are offering early discounts and reducing inventories. These were the primary users of the better heavy and semi-heavy red fox. With that fact before us, I suspect this item to encounter some resistance. China is expected to move into the market, with a larger percentage of the harvest going in that direction, but also look for dip in prices.

GRAY FOX: Quite a few country buyers are still holding collections from last season. This alone will dampen early offers. However, this item still appears solid and certainly worthy of pursing. The harvest numbers remain far lower than during the early ’80s. Example: Pennsylvania harvested about 50,000 per year prior to 1987, compared that with under 20,000 in recent years. Cost of maintaining an extensive, productive trapline will continue to the result in a short harvest. The unsold goods are expect to move at favorable prices, should a normal winter grip Russia and Eastern Europe.

COYOTE: Italy and Greece have been taking the better goods. These high fashion houses are expected to take a “wait and see” approach before investing early. Used primarily as trim on very expensive coats, the luxury retail markets are experiencing turmoil due to the economy uncertainty. This is expected to dampen the top-end market (Region s 7 and 9 goods). The commercials and ordinary types are expected to also see resistance as result of the weak top-end markets.

BOBCAT / LYNX-CAT / LYNX: This too is a wild card. The better goods from Regions 7, 9 and 10 will continue to move, but expect some downward adjustments due to a weaker luxury market. Last season record high prices were obtained for select goods. In fact, some of the country activity posted extraordinarily record highs. I doubt we’ll see anything like that this season, but then the super-wealthy are often insulated from the economic turmoil now circulating the globe. We’ll see. Look for goods from the other regions to see some significant price drops, possibly in the neighborhood 25% to 40% , with a tighter grade imposed. I would wait until the high-end retail markets have been evaluated, say January or early February before even considering selling.

MARTEN: Another luxury item that could be negatively impacted somewhat by the economic downturn. On the up-side, most are used as trim and in the construction of hats and this type of usage is targeted to mostly to Russian consumers who are, for the most part, unaffected by world financial affairs. Harvest numbers are expected to continue to be low due to the high cost of production. This should help stabilize prices somewhat.

FISHER: Manufacturers and users alike have finally discovered the allure of the silkier females over the males and prices have responded accordingly. I expect this item to continue to do well even in light of the weaker luxury markets. Considering the limited numbers taken, the highly selective nature of the buyers and users, and the consumer status associated with this specialty fur, look for continuing strong demand.

REGIONAL REPORTS

REGION 1

BEAVER: Early, fully covered straight hair blankets are expected to trade at $20 to $22. Averages expected to be in the range of $12 to $14. Once fully prime, the heavy blankets are expected to trade in the range of $24 to $28 with some hitting $35 or more. There is a growing demand in Russia and China.

MUSKRAT: Opening levels at $3.50 to $4 for XL’s, while smaller sizes and damaged goods will see sharp price drops. Good winters may see $4.50 to $5. Last season early collections averaged just under $3. Harvest is expected to be short and late season advances possible.

WILD MINK: Top males should open around $16 to $18, with females at $12 to $14. Market unsettled.

RED FOX: Select heavy reds early prices at $18 to $22, fully prime should move up to $25. The is the highly preferred red in the trim trade, but will likely see some resistance due to weak luxury markets.

RACCOON: XXXL,XXL & XL’s I’s & II’s, early goods at a highs of $16 to $18 some room for improvement. Averages expected to be the range of $10.50 to $12. Wet skinned and “on the carcass” goods, will be cheap early, look for $6.50 to $8.

COYOTE: Large early goods should bring $18 to $20; when fully prime look for $25. Expect to see some downward movement and a tight grade due to carryover.

OTTER: Good winters darks with straight hair at $60 to $70 tops in early trading; expect a tight grade as to color and size.

FISHER: Females fully prime at $70 to $80 with advances almost assured. Males in early trading at $60 to $70. You are likely to see a stronger preference toward females.

GRAY FOX: Expect to see early offers of $28 to $32 for prime goods. Buyers are expected to be cautious due to less than 100 percent clearance.

MARTEN: Early highs of $38 to $40 expected.

BOBCAT: Look for early highs of $70 to $80, higher once fully prime. Some XL selects will see higher.

REGION 2

BEAVER: Blankets and larger, straight long hair should open trading in the range of $22 to $24 for the early goods if fully covered with guard hair. Shearable types may see less interested due to expected weak retail movement in fashion world.

MUSKRAT: Expect buyers to be cautious with early trading. All buying based on speculation. Top XL’s, early fall good at $3.50 to $4 . Once fully prime, good winters are expected to advance to around $5 tops for the XL. Certainly room of improvement.

WILD MINK: Males are expected to open at highs of about $18 to $20 tops, females at $10 to $12.

RED FOX: XL fully furred heavy early goods at $22 to $24 , some XL heavies may see $30. These heavy, dark reds may see some resistance due to weaker luxury markets in North American and Western Europe.

GRAY FOX: Early offerings in the range of $28 to $32. Scattered collections of unsold goods and lack of clearance is expected to soften early activity.

RACCOON: Look for XXXL,XXL & XL’s I’s & II’s the range of $18 to $20 tops for finished goods. Averages around $12. Wet and on the carcass pelts off considerable. XXL’s and larger sizes in the round expect to see $8 to $10. Some will likely hit $28 to $30, but with the tighter grade few will make the cut.

COYOTE: Expect some resistence due to carryover. Size is the major factor, with the XL heavy goods opening at $18 to $22; some selects will see $25.

OTTER: Top straight hair XL’s should trade at $60 to $70. Buyers expected to be very cautious on this item until new retail markets are assessed. That will be late in the season.

FISHER: Females in the range of $70 to $80, males about $10 less. Room for advances..

REGION 3

BEAVER: Highs will most likely open in the range of $16 to $18 for the best finished goods with long guard hairs. Averages in this region hit $11 to $12 last season, but with the wet goods sold, true averages are difficult to determine.

MUSKRAT: XL’s to open at $3.50 for the northern goods. Southern section a tops of $3 or less.

WILD MINK: Males to open at $16 to $18, with some in the range of $20. Females topping out at $12 to $14.

OTTER: Any buying will be based on speculation and expected to be very cheap. Reports of some late movement last season at $35 to $40 for the best unsinged.

RED FOX: The small sizes typical of this region are moving to China should see highs of $14 to $16.

GRAY FOX: Trading the range of $22 to $24 for openers. Northern skins slightly higher.

RACCOON: XXXL, XXL, & XL’s, A/B I’s & II’s early coat types at $6.50 to $7.50; Some of the semi-heavies from the higher elevations at $10 to $12 for finished goods tops. May advance later if there is a short harvest.

BOBCAT: Most large goods at $45 to $50, some of the very well marked wide well spotted bellies at $60. Leaving feet intact can often add $10. Taxidermy trade active. Most from the lower reaches of Region at $30 to $35.

OPOSSUM: XL and Jumbo silvers at $2.50 to $3.

REGION 4

BEAVER: The hatter market will absorb most goods based on a $6 to $8 tops, averages low.

MUSKRAT: Trading should open in the range of $1.50 to $2.

WILD MINK: Prices in the range of $5 to $7 for males and about half for females. Poor colors and small sizes is the problem.

RED FOX: These small sizes and short nap goods at no more than $12 to $14.

GRAY FOX: Expect top prices of $20 to $22.

RACCOON: The best XXXL, XXL, & XL’s, A/B I’s & II’s coat types at $3.50 to $4 finished. Meat market said to be strong; $4 or slightly better per.

COYOTE: There will be very little interest in these; $4 to $6 maybe. Craft trades offer a possible outlet.

OTTER: No established market at this time. Hold, or sell to speculators at low price; $25 to $30 at most.

BOBCAT: Some well marked wide spotted bellies at $18 to $20. Check out the taxidermy market.

NUTRIA: Stronger demand should set opening levels in the range of $2 to $2.50 range, may advance. These do not shear well, too thin of underfur.

REGION 5

BEAVER: Early finished blankets and XL’s will top at $10 to $12; eastern section with most of these goods headed for the hatter market; low averages. Western section once fully prime $16 to $18. Oklahoma top skins hit around $20 last season and should do as well this year. Averages on finished goods around $10.

BADGER: Pale goods should see a tops of $25 to $28

RED FOX: Goods from the eastern section opening at $14 to $16 tops, Western goods $16 to $20 likely. Panhandle types at $20.

GRAY FOX: Early prices in the range of $22 to $24 for eastern sections; western goods at $24 to $26. Market unsettled due to limited carryover. This is expected to be resolved with first international auction.

RACCOON: The best finished coat types XXXL, XXL, & XL’s, A/B I’s & II’s. will likely see offers of $8 to $10. Color will be a factor. Semi-heavies from western higher elevations at $12 to $14; averages in the range of $8 to $9.. Look for meat market for carcass sales, $4 likely.

COYOTE: East Texas types at $10 to $12 for the best, with the westerns at $16 to $18. Large carryover has buyers moving out of this market. Maybe hard to sell.

OTTER: . Speculators taking some at $30 to $35.

BOBCAT: Eastern types at $35, tops if wide well marked bellies, Some well marked New Mexico, and Panhandle types at $100 to $125. Buyer are expected to take a “wait and see” approach until the movement of high fashion market is determined.

REGION 6

BEAVER: Most early offers for blankets and XL’s from high country will be in the range of $16 to $18. Good market for long hairs in Russia.

RED FOX: The larger sizes fully prime should open trading at $16 to $18, some heavies slightly higher.

GRAY FOX: Expect most trading at $22 to $24; these are silky but small. Look for advances later if all goods on hand are sold at previous levels.

KIT FOX: Tops in the range of $10 to $12. Strong taxidermy market.

RACCOON: XXL, XXL & XL’s I’s & II’s may see a opening tops of $8 to $10.

COYOTE: Look for top prices at $18 to $20 for the best goods. Some of the best Rim Rock type goods may see $25. Large carryover of commercial and ordinary types will have buyers reluctant to take on more goods.

BOBCAT: Prime goods, desert types, are expected to trade at $100 to $125; some selects much higher. High country, well spotted, heavies at $200 to $225. Tight credit and lack of high fashion consumer confidence could set this item back.

RINGTAIL: Look for top early offers of $5 to $6.

REGION 7 (7a)

BEAVER: Heavy, blankets with full covering of guard hair and XL expected to open at $20 to $24 tops, with the later fully prime selects higher; $25 to $30 The best traded last season at a tops of $35. Last season most of the late season sales averaged around $20 for well handled, prime goods. Should see the same this year.

MUSKRAT: Tops XL goods at $3 to $350 for openers.

NUTRIA: Large (26 in. and up) are expected to open at $4.50 to $5 for 26” and up shearable types. Averages around $3.50 expected.

WILD MINK: Prices $14 to $16 expected for males, a little better than half for females.

RED FOX: XL heavy goods, easterns at a topped of $20 to $22 early. Westerns in the range of $18 to $20.

GRAY FOX: Look for $24 to $26 tops for starters, advances likely. Late season auctions saw averages in the range of $35; could happen again

BADGER: Highs for westerns of $22 to $26 for openers; high country easterns, well furred, pale at $50 or better.

RACCOON: XXXL,XXL & XL’s I’s & II’s should bring $16 to $18 early for the best; market expected to advance.

OTTER: Large darks with straight hair at $55 to $65.

MARTEN: Top prices of $40 to $45 expected for fully prime goods.; could see some advances.

BOBCAT/LYNX-CAT: High Country XXL selects, easterns, at $250 to $350 depending on size, color and spot pattern, some extra pales much higher. but few make the cut. High fashion market unsettled due to economic conditions. The red goods from 7(a), westerns, at $100. .

REGION 8

BEAVER: Expect early top offers, once prime, of $30 to $ 35 for select, fully covered blankets.

WILD MINK: Males at $22 to $24 for Interiors and $24 to $26 for Yukons.

OTTER: Select XL Southeastern at to $70 to $80 with select XL interiors at $90 possible. Dark straight (unsinged) hairs are finding new markets.

LYNX: The best select pales at $250 to $275. Very good clearance on late season international auctions. Market somewhat unsettled due to the uncertainty in the future of the retail high fashion activity.

MARTEN: Top prices of $90 to $110, top; some advances possible. This article did exceptionally well late in the season last years.

WOLVERINE: This article remain active at a $350 tops, leave feet intact for premium prices. Well marked, silky selects higher. Well established, parka ruff and trophy markets.

TIMBER WOLF: The best pale blues and whites at a tops of $350 with XL grays at $300. Most moving into trophy/taxidermy trade, skinned with feet intact and ears turned demand the most; some exceptional specimen may command $500.

WHITE FOX: Tops for clear unstained goods at $25 to $30.

REGION 9

BEAVER: Early blankets, fully covered with guard hair, $24 to $28. Fully prime, Blankets (late season) should hit $30 to $35. Some select blankets higher. Most posted averages from last season in the range of $18 to $20; should see a replay this season.

MUSKRAT: Highs of $3 to $3.50 f or the good winters XL’s.

WILD MINK: Top offers are expected to open in the range of $14 to $16 for males and about half or a bit more for females.

RED FOX: Look for top early offers of around $24 to $26 for fully prime XL’s. Pales with frosty rumps off. Market appears softer than last year.

GRAY FOX: Highs of $22 to $24 expected, advances possible.

BADGER: Selects, pales well furred opening at $40 to $45, some extra pales higher, most will not make the cut with hair badger at $18 to $22. Check out taxidermy trade for these.

RACCOON: The best XXXL, XXL, & XL’s, I’s & II’s at $16 to $18 for the best; averages around $10 to $12. Advances likely.

OTTER: Darks are finding new users in Eastern Europe, highs of $60 to $70 expected.

COYOTE: The best high country goods are expected to see highs of $35 to $45; some very pale goods higher. Ordinary goods and commercial types at $22 to $26 tops and then the bellies must be wide, clear and white. This article is finding resistance and may be further off due to the retractions in fashion industry.

BOBCAT/LYNX-CAT: Top, pale, heavy, high country types should see highs of $275 to $325. Some mountain types, select pale blues, at $350 and up. Some of these will hit $400. The ordinary goods expected be cheaper this season ; $100 to $125 for XL’s. This article could be a victim of the economic downturn. We’ll see.

REGION 10

BEAVER: Northern section , the best early long haired blankets at $22 to $24. Fully prime expected to move at $30 to $32. Southern sections $22 to $24. Kansas posted averages of around $18 last season, should be about that this season.

MUSKRAT: Most good fall collections are expected to open XL $2.75 to $3.25 to speculators; most likely will not go lower, holding an option. It’s unlikely they will get cheaper.

WILD MINK: Most early offers for males in the range of $18 to $20 with females better than half.

RED FOX: Look for top XL’s to bring $22 to $24 for starters; possible to see some advances in the range of $28.

GRAY FOX: Expect to see highs of $24 to $26 for openers; advances possible.

RACCOON: The best XXXL, XXL, & XL’s, I’s & II’s between $24 to $26 early; advances likely. Dakota/Minnesota types under strong demand should top $35 to $40 but only a few will bring this price. Look for a tight grade and to color and size. These are the preferred goods. Averages expected in the range of $16 to $18 for seasonable collections, mixed sizes.

COYOTE: Commercial and ordinary types have run into some clearance problems. The carryover will dampen opening. Look $18 to $22 for starters, but only if the bellies are clear, white and wide; with Sandhills types at $22 to $24. Expect a hard grade.

BOBCAT-LYNX-CAT: Look for $125 to $150 for the best from the northern section; some selects slightly higher with southern section goods at $90 to $100. Expect to see a hard grade and wide range of prices.

BADGER: Some pale selects in the range of $35 to $45, averages in the range of $16 to $18.

REGION 11

BEAVER: Look for an early tops of $18 to $20 for finished goods from northern sections. Southern sections $14 to $16 for clean, finished blankets. Tough grade as to damage and primeness, many go as hatters.

MUSKRAT: A tops of about $3.50 for openers northern section, most lower. Look for late season market to improve.

WILD MINK: The XL males at $16 to $18, with females at a little more than half. This market is expected to improve and advances likely. December trading expected to be in the range of $20 to $22 for northerns and $16 to $18 south.

RED FOX: Expect XL’s to trade early in the range of $18 to $22, may see advances later in the season.

GRAY FOX: Tops of $24 to $26 for openers. Northern section hit $38 last season. Demand remains and uncertainty.

RACCOON: Semi heavies, XXXL, XXL, & XL’s, A/B I’s & II’s. to trade at $16 to $18 for early semi-heavies early. XL coat types at a high of $10 to $12 for finished, fully prime.

COYOTE: Ordinary goods at $16 to $18 for openers. The heavier northern goods at $18 to $24. Expect at hard grade as these commercial type are seeing resistance at the international level. Carryover of is dampening interest.

OTTER: Marketing to speculators may see offers in the range of $35 to $40. Most of these are pales.

BOBCAT: Top at $50 to $65, some slightly higher. Wide clear bellies a plus. Northen section at $100 or slightly better.

OPOSSUM: Tops at $2.50 for pale Jumbos; averages around $1.50

SKUNK: Tops of $6 expected.

REGION 12

BEAVER: Early straight hair blankets expected to hit highs of $24 to $26; fully prime at a tops of $40 to $45 for the better late season blankets. Smaller sizes worthwhile. Overall averages expected to range around $20.

MUSKRAT: Good falls trading expected to open at $3 to $3.50 for XL’s. Winters should hit $4 or slightly better.

WILD MINK: Look for males to bring $16 to $18, some higher; females at $8 to $10.

RED FOX: Heavy XL goods at $22 to $24 for openers; size is the factor. Could advance depending on ranch fox activity.

RACCOON: The best XXXL’s, and XXL’s I’s & II’s A/B’s should trade early at a high of $18 to $20, some selects expected to hit $22 to $24;

COYOTE: Size is the key factor; $20 to $24. Tough grade, buyers will be looking for size and wide, clear, white bellies. Commercial collections seeing resistance.

Please FAX regional fur auction results to Parker at (501) 262-1582. Or, e-mail results to HeTraps@aol.com.

 


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