Fur is coming back
Posted on Sat, Jan. 08, 2005
Fur scurries off store shelves
Industry's renewed popularity brings cheers from retailers, jeers from animal rights activists
By Mary Ethridge, Beacon Journal business writer
This holiday season, the fur was flying out the doors of retailers across the country.
Although it was a disappointing Christmas for many merchants, those who cater to America's wealthiest enjoyed another year of stellar sales.
Luxury furs, long out of favor, have made a comeback among flush consumers.
``This past year was just great for us. It keeps getting better,'' said Mark Ayzman, owner of Vollbracht Inc., a furrier in Fairlawn's Summit Mall.
Ayzman recently remodeled the store, tripling the size of his sales floor and storage area.
``We needed room to expand,'' he said.
Overall, sales of furs, which dropped by a third from 1987 to 1995, rose an estimated 15 percent in 2004 to more than $2 billion, said Robert Southwick of the Florida-based research firm Southwick Associates.
It was the third straight year of sales gains for the industry. Sales were led by mink, which accounts for 60 percent of all fur sales, Southwick said.
Animal rights activists are horrified and suspect the fur industry of inflating sales numbers. They note that the number of fur farms has declined over the past few years.
``We certainly wouldn't put it past the fur industry to lie. What else do you expect from people who slaughter baby animals?'' said Matt Prescott, campaign coordinator for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA.
Ayzman believes people are tired of listening to the animal activists.
``That's long forgotten. It has not had an impact on furriers in a long time,'' he said.
Whatever side of the fur debate you're on, one thing is clear: Fur coats aren't just being worn by well-heeled grandmas on their way to church.
Today, your mink may be pink. Or purple. Or both.
Sheared, shaved, grooved, sculpted and dyed, fur is used to create and adorn all manner of clothing, from ponchos and pants to pins and purses.
Furriers have created new styles to appeal to younger shoppers who are looking for a little fur flash to go with their bling-bling.
``When I took over the business 23 years ago, most of our customers were well into retirement age,'' said Ayzman. ``Now most of my customers are in their 20s, 30s and 40s. And I have a lot of male customers.''
Others see the same trend.
``We have seen an increase in considerably younger customers,'' said designer Dennis Basso, who operates stores in New York City and Aspen, Colo. ``Fur has become a mainstream part of fashion.''
Neiman Marcus, whose average customer has an income of about $190,000, posted a 10.4 percent same-store sales gain in December that was partly fueled, it said, by sales of furs. (Animal rights people call the company Neiman Carcass.)
Not everyone can afford or wants a full-length, flashy fur. That's why many designers have included fur trim on their accessories for a touch of luxury.
``Fur has come back after being politically incorrect for so long,'' said Pam Danzinger, founder of Unity Marketing, a consulting firm based in Stevens, Pa. Still, she said, many consumers want to wear fur ``in a subtle way.''
Ayzman tries to offer something in all price ranges and for varying tastes, from a multi-colored fur scarf for $29 to a $30,000 Russian sable jacket.
Among younger consumers, his beaver vests, dyed in hot colors, are popular. More conservative customers like shearling, lamb skin that has the hide on the outside and fur on the inside.
``I got in 100 shearling coats at the beginning of the season. I'll sell them all before the end of the season,'' he said.
Older women are unlikely to be wowed by the hot pink fox shrug with satin ties, he said.
``The grandmother is not going to be interested,'' Ayzman said. ``but the granddaughter will be.''
Prescott of PETA points out that the look and feel of fur can be easily created with synthetics.
``Synthetics are as warm as they are stylish,'' he said.
Although no one to date collects sales figures on faux fur, it is popular. Several trendy designers, including Todd Oldham and Marc Andrews, use only faux fur in their designs.
Prescott said PETA and other anti-fur groups have directed their attention back to the cause they thought they had won 15 years ago.
``The gloves are back off in our battle with the fur industry,'' said Prescott. ``They're going to lose.''
So while fur may be warm and fuzzy, the feelings on both sides of the debate are not.
Meanwhile, consumers are expected to seek fur in their fashions again this year, retail watchers predict.
Good news for those that like to trap .............
I used to trap for money as a kid. I want to teach my son to trap. It is a great way to learn about animals, & then kill them.
When I lived in S.D. I saw a bil board that told the Peta/green peacnicks to mind their own business, & stay out of SD. Sponsard by the SD Fur Trappers & ranchers association. One more reason I liked living there.
I would only wear fur if I was into being a mountian man, or some other type of re-enacting that called for it, or if I lived were weather conditions called for it.
I would buy fur for my girlfriend, before I would buy it for my wife! Thats fur sure.
I like my leather jackets and coats, wife likes her furs. peta won't change a thing.
The landing strip look is no more?
My wife showed my some purse or something the other day in a magazine. It's made by J-Lo and has mink fur (I think) on it. Kinda suprising with all the people out there opposed to real fur.