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Interesting article on NY fur industry history.


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315292 (Fur and Leather Apparel Manufacturing)


Furs were once considered a luxury that only a few could afford. The huge influx of women entering the workforce in the 1970s, though, changed that perception forever. Their increased disposable income allowed many women to buy for themselves an item that historically had been purchased by men as gifts to their wives. After 1970 the U.S. fur market grew steadily and, by the 1980s, furs had surged in popularity.


Although fur sales dropped during the early and mid-1990s, due to factors such as animal rights campaigns, warm winters, and a glut in the international fur market, the late 1990s saw a resurgence in interest in fur goods. Thanks to a strong U.S. economy, the value of industry shipments grew from $244 million in 1997 to $311 million in 2000. The fur industry appeared to be in the midst of a renaissance, with interest in furs increasing worldwide. Fur goods caught the interest of several top clothing designers and many started to incorporate fur goods into their runway designs. In 1999 approximately 200 designers used fur goods in their lines, compared to 42 designers in 1985.


Internationally, the Chinese were emerging as a force to be reckoned with as both consumers and producers of fur goods. Hong Kong remained a force in fur exports and consumers in China started purchasing fur goods, focusing specifically on the darker pelts. Meanwhile Russia was struggling to maintain a presence in the international market.


A surplus of pelts on the international market, a slow U.S. economy, warm winters, and price battles among retailers contributed to lower profits in the late 1980s. By 1991 U.S. fur sales had declined 44 percent from a high of $1.8 billion in 1987. Overproduction saw retail prices fall 40 percent below their peak of 1986. Animal rights groups—which had won much publicity in the 1980s with their advertising and public relations campaign against the fur industry, attempting to reduce the demand for fur—pointed to the declining numbers and claimed their campaign had been successful. Other analysts saw other factors (a series of mild winters, the slowdown of the economy, and a glut of pelts on the market) as much more important. By 1992 pelt prices began to turn around and the following year sales increased by 13 percent. In the early 1990s lower prices helped increase the unit sales of furs, but dollar sales remained constant. Some experts contended that in order for fur manufacturers to succeed in today's market, they needed to develop cross-promotional campaigns with other clothing manufacturers; in addition to the fur salons found in larger metropolitan areas, manufacturers needed to work closely with larger department stores such as Nordstrom's to raise awareness about fur goods among consumers.


By 1998 there were approximately 120 companies that manufactured fur goods in the United States, down from 503 in 1982. The number of workers employed by U.S. fur manufacturers plummeted from 2,600 in 1983 to 575 in 1997. More than half of those employed were sewing-machine operators. The industry was concentrated in the state of New York, with almost 90 percent of manufacturers based there in 1987. The four largest fur manufacturers and retailers were all located in New York: Mohl Fur Company, Inc.; Marc Kaufman; Associated Fur Manufacturers Co.; and J. Mendel Fourrure. According to the 1997 Economic Census, the majority of the industry continued to be family-operated companies with employees typically numbering fewer than 100. By 1999, the number of U.S. fur manufacturing employees had started to rebound due to increased demand.


Some industry analysts attributed the increase in fur sales in the late 1990s to a generally healthy economy and record snowfalls in the Northeast. In addition, the fur industry also saw a rise in worldwide fur prices, boding well for its future health. The threatened boycott by the European Union over U.S. use of leghold traps appeared to be on hold due to fear of challenge by the World Trade Organization.




"Commodities & Agriculture: Chinese Buyers Fill Fur Gap Left in Fur Market by Russians." Financial Times, 19 October 1999.


Emerson, Jim. "Fur Industry; Sidebar." Direct, September 1998.


Feitelberg, Rosemary. "Furriers Lament Spotty Season." Women's Wear Daily, 10 January 1995.


Munk, Nina. "Animal Magnetism." Forbes, 10 March 1997.


Riga, Andy. "Fur Industry Expects a Revival: Warm Winter Hurts Sales in 1997, Not the Anti-Fur Crusade: Group Says." Gazette (Montreal), 30 April 1998.


Rybak, Deborah Caufield. "Fur Flies Again Animal-Rights Activists Succeeded in Making Fur Unfashionable, but Designers Are Piling on the Pelts Again. Will Consumers Follow Suit?" Star Tribune (Minneapolis), 31 October 1999.


Sachs, Susan. "Russia's Riches-to-Rags Story/Fur Industry Takes Hit in Free Market." Newsday, 9 February 1998.


Schmitt, Jane. "Fur Coats, Accessories Gaining in Popularity." Business First of Buffalo, 15 November 1999.


United States Census Bureau. "Statistics for Industries and Industry Groups: 2000." Annual Survey of Manufacturers. February 2002.


Wilson, Eric. "Furriers Stress Fashion Over Function." Women's Wear Daily, 12 May 1998.


From about.com

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  • 3 months later...
By 1998 there were approximately 120 companies that manufactured fur goods in the United States, down from 503 in 1982. The number of workers employed by U.S. fur manufacturers plummeted from 2,600 in 1983 to 575 in 1997.


Ran across this while reviewing old posts. Shocking numbers. The industry has certainly contracted since the glory days of the 80's. Furtunately, most major department stores in the Chicago area still have fur salons (Macy's, Neiman's, Sak's, Bloomies) and most of the independent furriers appear to be doing reasonably well (York, Elan, Pavlis, O'Brien, etc.).

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think the most serious thing I saw when I was in New York fur district, was how few young people were in the business or backrooms. Does not boad well for the future.


There were two exceptions, a 30-something very sharp guy who had just hired a young Russian desiner to do a private line. His shop was on the corner of 7th and 28th I believe. Just can't remember right now their name. Great group! Believe he intended to move to Chicago and open an operation there, too in 2005. Lost touch several years ago. (I am referring to him - not my mind!)


The second was my favorite Nick Sekas. Super-sharp guy!

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Great article - Thanks, Linda!


I was speaking with my furrier in St. Petersburg (FL) a couple of weeks back. I asked him how his business was holding up in our current economic situation. I was surprised to learn that he hadn't sold a fur in about a year, but his business held its own. For this furrier, he makes money from storage, repairs, remodeling. Anytime he sells a fur, it's a bonus.



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Linda does sum it up. I talked to the people I use, and they mention that business is great. Yet no one wants to buy it. And, they are at probably in their late 70's!


I agree that this is by far the biggest issue that the business is facing.


(Article in our Library now by the way.)



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When I was in the New York fur district 1Q08, I also noted that most of the folks in the fur shops were older (I'd guesstimate 50's or older). The shop where I purchased my mahogany mink jacket was owned/staffed by two brothers, both of whom I would guess were in their 60's.

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