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The Fur Trade Today - 01/05/06

Published 01/05/06

November turned out to be a mixed bag for North American fur retailers: slightly ahead for some, a bit off for others, but generally short of what most had anticipated. Considering that November traditionally has been the kickoff for the season and one of their four biggest selling months, some were calling the results a disappointment — especially in view of fur’s current high profile in the fashion world. While inconsistent weather conditions were most often blamed for the month’s less-than-steady flow of traffic through the stores, furriers also noted that other retailers in their areas — including jewelry, furniture and non-fur outerwear — were experiencing similar difficulties.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 12/04/05


Give Fur Back to the Animals program

Columbia News Service: Donated furs make warm nests for rescued animals

When Cindy Stewart was a little girl, she loved to watch her mother primp for a night on the town. Her favorite moment came when her mother would swing her luxurious mink stole over her shoulders and whisk out the door.

As much as Stewart cherished the memory, however, she could not wear the fur “in good conscience.” So not long ago, Stewart, a retired attorney in Vienna, Va., donated the stole to the Humane Society in her mother’s memory. Now her mother’s exotic mink is giving warmth and comfort to someone else: a rescued baby animal.

“My mom would have been so pleased,” Stewart said.

Stewart is among thousands who have donated fur coats and other furry fashions to wildlife rehabilitation centers across the country. Every year thousands of animals are rescued from roadsides, Dumpsters and back yards, then nursed back to health at these centers and returned to the wild.

Source: Columbia News Service, 12/04/05


Sales of men’s furs also appeared to have turned stronger in the past month or so, now accounting for a slightly larger percentage of the total. More than a few retailers surveyed last week commented that more men were coming in and coming in earlier than before, indicating that furs for men have established a stronger base. This could be attributed to recent greater exposure of furs on sports and entertainment personalities, including some who have inaugurated their own designer businesses, incorporating furs. One major operator in the Midwest said he was doing a brisk business ranging from pieced mink jackets at $1,000 to full-length mink coats around $5,000.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 12/04/05


An appeals court in San Francisco has dismissed a suit by an animal rights group that sought to ban the sale of shoes made of kangaroo leather. Although the animal’s fur was not mentioned, the dismissal presumably opens the door for resumption of trade in that item as well. The suit, brought by Viva! International Voice for Animals, claimed sales of the shoes made by Adidas violated a 1970 California law that bans commercial importation or sales of products from any of 23 animals, including kangaroos. It alleged that Adidas made soccer cleats of three types of Australian kangaroo: red, eastern gray, and western gray. The three species had been listed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service from 1974 to 1995 as threatened, but were de-listed after the agency concluded that the Australian government had developed an effective conservation program. Justice James Marchiano, in tossing out the case, ruled that a state ban on the use of kangaroo leather would interfere with a U.S. policy of working with the Australian government to develop a kangaroo conservation program.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 12/04/05


7 Days: Cruelty. Plain, bloody, disgraceful cruelty

The letters page of [the United Arab Emirates website] 7DAYS has hosted a heated argument in the last two weeks about the fur trade, since a number of retailers in Dubai announced they would open shops that would sell fur.

The fur trade insists that animals such as mink and fox which are farmed for their fur are kept in humane conditions and slaughtered according to rigidly applied government criteria. It is not an argument that impresses the anti-fur trade. Heinz Leinhard is president of Swiss Animal Protection (SAP). In a speech in Switzerland earlier this year introducing a report into the China fur trade, he said: “Hundreds of thousands of wild animals are kept in battery cages before meeting a brutal death in the name of fashion and vanity.

Industry claims of ‘appropriate housing’, “good animal welfare laws in fur producing countries” and “happy animals, which generate glossy pelts” have long since been exposed as misleading whitewash.”

Mr Leinhard wrote to 7DAYS this week, highlighting the work of a team of researchers who had traveled to China and uncovered dreadful cruelty there.

Source: 7 Days website, 12/08/05


Undercover Investigation Finds Cats in Czech Republic Victims of Fur Trade Industry

BRUSSELS — Evidence from a recent undercover investigation by Humane Society International reveals that the grisly business of killing cats and dogs for fur is thriving in the Czech Republic. The findings were announced here today during a news conference at the European Parliament with activist Heather Mills McCartney, MEPs Struan Stevenson, Phillip Whitehead and Paulo Casaca, and HSI undercover investigator, Richard Swain.

The investigation is part of an ongoing campaign by HSI and members of the European Parliament to end the import, export, sale and production of all items made of cat and dog fur in the EU. Animals captured or bred for this purpose in Asia are subjected to horrific living conditions and then stabbed and skinned for their fur. While the majority of the trade comes from China, it has long been a worry that EU nationals may be engaged in this as well.

At today’s conference, MEP Stevenson said, “With each passing day we find increasing evidence that the sale of cat and dog fur is widespread throughout Europe. This latest evidence underscores how deeply entrenched this cruelty is, encompassing even the slaughter of EU animals. Until we ban this fur, the European Union is part of the problem.”

Source: Humane Society International press release, 12/08/05


McCartney Blasts Canada over Seal Hunting

Paul McCartney has written an angry letter to Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin over the country’s harp seal hunting, only days after the premier was criticised by Bono over the country’s foreign aid.

The animal-loving ex-Beatle sent Martin a letter on Wednesday appealing to him to ban the controversial practice. The Canadian government insists the north west Atlantic harp seal population is currently stable at 5.9 million, after raising the hunting quote to 319,517 earlier this year.

Source: Irish Examiner, 12/12/05


The new auction season also is expected to witness more support from Korea and Japan, two markets that wielded great power at the sales until about 15 years ago, when their economies turned sour. Both countries had developed their fur markets from virtually nothing to world-class in a relatively short period of time, Japan as largely a consumer and Korea as both a consumer and a manufacturing center supplying Western markets much the same as Hong Kong does today. For the past dozen or more years, however, economic problems at home brought severe declines in domestic fur consumption, while a decline in Western markets undermined Korea’s huge export business.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 12/12/05


New York designer/retailer Dennis Basso has opened his third store, this one on Chicago’s prestigious North Michigan Avenue shopping area, known as the Magnificent Mile. The 4,400-square-foot store is expected to bring in about $8 million in sales. The opening-night party was sponsored by Vogue magazine and attracted a crowd of about 400, including many celebrities. Basso’s other locations are on New York’s Madison Avenue and in the Little Nell Hotel in Aspen, Colo. He is also considering setting up shops in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, possibly in the next year or so.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 12/12/05


Over 100 congressmen, their wives and high-level staffers joined representatives of Fur wRaps the Hill at a fashion show and brunch last week. The furs, modeled by congressional wives, were supplied by Miller’s Furs of Chevy Chase, MD. This was the second year of the event, dubbed Deck the Halls, and part of the proceeds of the sales again is being donated to the Landstuhl Fisher House, which provides housing and care for the families of injured American servicemen around the world.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 12/12/05


Respect for Animals: New film shows — for first time — killing of fur farmed mink in Ireland

Questions for Chief Vet and Agriculture Minister

Respect for Animals today releases dramatic new footage showing — for the first time — the process of mink being slaughtered for their fur — on a farm in the constituency of the Agriculture Minister, Mary Coughlan (Donegal South West).

The film raises serious questions about the method being used to kill the mink and the monitoring of fur farms at the time of slaughter. Ms Coughlan and the Chief Vet have both been asked to comment on the footage.

Source: Respect for Animals press release (at “News”), 12/13/05


Jacob Goes Fur Free (Canada)

Upon learning the chain was selling rabbit fur trim, collars, and scarves imported from China, GAN was moving towards a national boycott of the company. However, compassion prevailed and the boycott has been called off.

In a letter to Global Action Network, Jacob’s Vice President of Image and Marketing stated they are concerned about cruelty to animals and as of 14 December they have started removing all fur items from store shelves.

“Many companies are uninformed about the cruel origins of fur. We are thrilled to see Jacob take this compassionate stand for the animals,” said Global Action Network Director Andrew Plumbly.

An undercover investigation which made international headlines earlier this week found that millions of dogs and cats in China are bludgeoned, hanged, bled to death, and strangled with wire nooses for their fur, which is often deliberately mislabelled as rabbit fur and sold abroad.

With 200 retail locations across Canada, Jacob joins other major fur free retailers, Gap Inc., Banana Republic, and Roots, in promoting the concept that “compassion is the fashion.”

Source: Global Action Network (GAN) press release, 12/16/05


But the bottom line is that the fur business is thriving around the world and the principal driving force is fashion, although timing of purchases is still subject to weather conditions. To be sure, anti-fur organizations are still active, but their efforts have lost credibility with the public and are virtually ignored by the media which regard them as old-hat. This was evident by the lack of coverage of their activities following Thanksgiving Day, which they refer to as Fur-Free Friday. Nevertheless, industry leaders suggest the trade not let its guard down, particularly with respect to such organizations’ continuing efforts through the school systems, which could bear fruit in later years.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 12/19/05


Imports of fur apparel into the U.S. continued to drift lower in October, a reflection of the cutback in orders placed earlier this year in the face of heavier-than-normal stock carryovers from last year. The 10-month dollar total was only slightly below that of the year ago period but, in view of the major price advances in the past year, this would indicate that the unit figures are down sharply.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 12/19/05


Fashion furs were a highlight of the annual Modern Luxury conference sponsored by the International Herald Tribune, held recently in Dubai. The two-day session attracted over 400 delegates from 29 countries and heard such high-profile fashion speakers as Giorgio Armani, Elle MacPherson, Robert Polet, Diane von Furstenberg and Silvia Venturini Fendi. The fur portion of the conference was organized by the International Fur Trade Federation ... Six of Korea’s leading fur retailers and designers teamed up with North American Fur Association to put on a fashion show for the media and VIP’s at the Grand Hyatt in Seoul.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 12/19/05


As the end of the year approaches, it appears that 2005 will finish on a much stronger note than the previous year in terms of both retail fur sales and pelt prices. Seasonably cold temperatures in the northern sections around the world have been providing the conditions that have become vital to a successful December, traditionally the biggest month on the retailer’s calendar. At the same time, the rapidly-expanding markets in China, Russia and elsewhere are causing skin prices to move steadily upward.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 12/26/05


Last week’s transit strike in New York City couldn’t have come at a worse time for the city’s retailers, that being the biggest shopping week of the year. Even more so this year, with all three gift-giving holidays — Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanza — being celebrated at the same time. The stores’ problems were twofold: A drop in normal customer traffic because of the difficulty in getting into and around Manhattan; fewer sales and other employees for the same reason. But while metropolitan area residents may have had to do their holiday shopping closer to home, Manhattan’s major hotels were crowded with tourists who also tend to shop. At the most popular stores, so many sales clerks were out that managers had to take to the floor. There were no estimates as to how fur sales were affected at the major midtown stores, but traffic through the dozen or so stores around the fur market, as well as the showrooms in the buildings, was down sharply.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 12/26/05


The U.S. Justice Dept. investigation into possible price-fixing has resulted in its first known casualty. London-based Alaska Brokerage International announced last week it is closing its New York office at the end of the year. Company president Peter N. Bartfeld attributed the action to “the prohibitive costs of the ongoing investigation in Seattle.” Company vice-president David Karsch expects to disclose his plans shortly. As noted, the government’s probe began in May 2004, and more than 40 firms were reported to have been subpoenaed to furnish records going back four years. Neither the government nor any of those served would comment on the case, but several are known to have appeared before a grand jury sitting in Seattle. The legal costs involved are said to run well into six figures. Because many foreign buyers balked at returning to the U.S. for fear of being detained for that jury, American Legend shifted this year’s auctions across the border to Vancouver and Whistler, B.C.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 12/26/05


Although no official information is available, trade sources indicated Alaska brokerage’s involvement may be connected to suspicion of collusion among buyers at a sale of otters in Seattle two years ago. That alleged collusion reportedly was caught on video tape in the buyers lounge or lunch room at the auction house. This was said to have been behind the visit (SPR, 07/18/05) by Canadian police to a Toronto-based broker with warrants to search his home at the request of the DOJ. That visit also became a message to buyers in other countries that staying out of the U.S. may not insulate them from the department’s apparently long arm. As a result, there reportedly now is a willingness of foreign buyers to attend a sale in Seattle.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 12/26/05

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