According to the International Fur Trade Federation, global retail fur sales last season advanced to more than $14 billion, a 5 percent gain over the previous season’s total of more than $13 billion. Before we break out the party hats and pop the champagne corks in celebration of a new “fur boom” though, a word of caution is in order. Retail fur sales have yet to reach the levels of 2007 — $15 billion.
There is certainly a recovery of our fur markets underway. The global financial meltdown of late 2007 hit the European and North American luxury trade hard. Yet, other markets are growing. A new breed of consumers was desiring, buying and wearing fur, but their disposable income is limited, and now inflation has reared its ugly head. Their income was growing, but the higher cost of ranch mink soon became a factor.
The recovery the fur market is further underscored by this growing class of shoppers with limited means. They’re making money, but yet they are far from wealthy. Furs are symbolic of this newly achieved status.
It didn’t take long before the manufacturers of fur garments and accessories started to satisfy the appetites of these consumers. To do so, they had to design and start making fur goods these potential shoppers could afford. They began to focus on smaller fur pieces and a variety of accessories.
Many of these makers were somewhat new to the trade. They knew ranch mink and they knew the label “mink” was also well known to these new budget-minded shoppers, but wild fur was an unknown … a mystery to the manufacturers and shoppers. This requires education.
Since the global economic meltdown of 2007, there have been intense programs of educating the fur makers. Trade shows, consumer magazines and fur design seminars were conducted to educate potential makers and consumers, removing some of the mystery. A new and emerging market of young shoppers was a primary target. The learning curve was being addressed. Now, it seems these educational programs are bearing fruit.
We’ve also been helped along the way by the expanding “high-end” markets in China and Russia. More newly minted Russian and Chinese millionaires are spouting-up like Johnson grass in a wheat field. Ranch mink prices continue to increase. Recent crops of ranched fur have seen 100 percent clearance.
But, if the long history of the fur trade has taught us anything, it is that last season’s results have little, if any, bearing, on next season’s prices.