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So, you think you want to own or start a fur business?


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This topic actually started on FLinFL's thread on looking for a furrier for storage, etc.

 

Since several members have mentioned they have interest in owning and starting a fur business, I thought I would give you an update, without all the BS you can get from those in the business. I have now been in this wonderful business 5 years. Here are my latest thoughts:

 

Actually starting my fur business was an investment. Based upon a passion for an industry that I believe has bottomed out, at least in the USA.

 

As I mentioned on the original thread a Montreal Show lecture projected over 50% of the furriers are expected to fold from 2000 to 2010. I believe my numbers are correct, but in any case, a lot of furriers will fold and soon. It seems to be right on track for being true.

 

Some days I wonder if I made a mistake. My learning curve was much greater than I could ever have imagined. This business is just incredible, but so involved and changing everyday. Even for the experienced it can be perilous.

 

I know there have been several members who have mentioned they would like to own a retail fur shop. So, for these members, keep in mind that outside of major cities and department stores, most current fur shops survive on services not sales, getting into this business takes care.

 

I entered this business just as China was entering the manufacturing markets about 5 years ago. Little did we realize in a short order they would take over. It is no longer a North America dominated business. How long will it be before we are willing to buy from China or Hong Kong on ebay? I can make contacts in New York and Montreal. But, China? I am too small for them to bother. At least for now.

 

It is only a matter of time before they dominate in breeding as well.

 

But, the strong in North America will survive and in many ways may excel. There are bright, optimistic manufacturing furriers in new York who are great business men and seasoned in the business. Like Nick Sekas I have spoken of.

 

There are also creative salesmen that understand the black market and sexual aspects of fur, like Marc Kaufman. Now there is a character if I have EVER known one! (Still trying to get him to post here.)

 

My other issue, I operate on cash only with my fur suppliers. There is a limit to what I am willing to stick my neck out for. I am in a major inventory transition right now. Have 400 coats, want to carry only 200. But, will increase my average selling price. Will carry mostly new with 50% to 70% off But, that is just a requirement on ebay. My strength will be in trust, quality, and selection. It is going to take me at least until the 4th of July to list them all.

 

A furrier once told me just move them out. You don't need to make money on everything. Just take old money that is setting there and turn it into good money. Figure 30% in dollars of investment I will break even on. 10% in dollars I will loose money on, but they are inexpensive items I purchased to make pillows, lining and blankets from. Plus, another 10% loss of dollars I have to sell as craft because I purchased a misrepresented fur on ebay. (These are the ones I did in the beginning) 50% of investment $ I can make a decent return on for ebay. I need to increase this last category to 70%. Changing over my inventory will do this, I believe.

 

The biggest change that must occur is to increase my inventory turn. By keeping my mark up low and improving my ebay site shopping experience and photos I believe I can. I must have unique special items.

 

Have a graphic artist working on a new ebay store site for me now. Am very excited about it, but it may take a few more months to finish. When I have it done, I will let you know. Can't wait!!

 

I also am setting up a second ebay store for the vintage and craft items. These are the items I will not longer carry. Had originally thought I would make pillows and blankets. Too busy for that. So I have over 100 items to list here. Will do it last since it is a small part of my dollars of investment and there is no profit to be made. This store name will be vintage_furs on ebay.

 

So, for those thinking of going into this: I will keep posted on my "investment" . The jury is still out for me. But, remember I live in Michigan which has to be the worst hit in the US economy.

 

If you have any thoughts or questions feel free to ask. Other members who are in the business have additional insights and experiences to add. Hope they will.

 

Linda

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I think Linda's figures are correct on the number of furriers who will fold in the next few years. I know of 1 in New York and 2 or 3 in Alaska who will probably fold in the next 5 years or less.

 

China will definitely dominate the manufacturing and possibly the breeding segments of the fur industry. They are already the major buyers at fur pelt auctions. Because of the Chinese buying almost all the better quality pelts at auction, North American furriers are having difficulty obtaining the quality or quantity of pelts they need. Thus pelt prices in North America are soaring, causing even more problems for furriers. With their lower labor costs, the Chinese can outbid North American furriers for pelts and still produce a quality garment at a lower cost.

 

While you may be seeing more furs being worn in major US and Canadian cities, most are not new, but are coming out of the closets where they have been stored for several years. From my perspective, even those who may want to buy a fur are very price concious, and most are unwilling to buy at prices that will allow the furrier to make any profit.

 

To my knowledge, the only furriers doing well are those whose shops are located where there are plenty of upper income customers.

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Ok now...

How is the quality of Chinese workmanship and end product when compared to North American? Do we see high quality furs coming back here? Is the workmanship reasonable? Can furriers buy a coat from a distributor and in turn sell it and make more money than they would have if made in Canada?

W

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The Hong Kong workmanship is like all workmanship. There are various levels of quality. But, overall they are excellent. Most designers are having their items made there now.

 

The Canadians that I buy from, like Jean Crisan, their things are made in Hong Kong, too. I believe Argirou still makes theirs. But, they have the skins tanned in China, I believe. They do an excellent job.

 

I still have New York and Montreal manufacturing sources. They are very important to me. I can get custom orders in about two weeks. But, as AK says, they are having a hard time getting good pelts.

 

Linda

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If you're starting, I have some extra Bonis fur sewing machines (class A and B). In any case, does anyone one furrier who makes ladies fur purses and fur bags.

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JGalanos,

 

Welcome to The Fur Den!

 

Yes, it is a changing business. Will be interesting to see how it evolves.

 

Linda

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It's kind of like clothes. They aren't going away and someone will still be selling them.

 

Wait!! Furs are clothing!! Well except for those wonderful fur spreads and things.

 

Furry welcome JGalanos.

 

OFF

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JGal, just wanted to add my word of welcome here. Hope you have a really great time on this site. Really great to see your Avatar as well.

 

As for the topic at hand I am convinced that the business will indeed pick up and those who have weathered the more difficult times will come out very much on top!

 

White

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We also are finding it harder and harder to find good skins to purchase to make our wears. Our fur business is a bit different as we are a couture furrier and individually design and hand craft all the furs ourselves on premises. To stay competitive, we have branched out into rugs and blankets and other home decor products, but our major business is still fur coats.

As a small business, suppliers sometimes pass us over, but we have wonderful connections in NY and Montreal who say they admire our tenacity in such a business.

 

We are one of probably a small handful of furrier houses who actually still design and custom make our furs in-house. Our customers love to go through our process of" 1. talking about the design 2. seeing it sketched out in color for them. 3. fitting muslins 4. choosing the skin bundles to use. 5. having multiple fittings and tweaking the design to suit 6. Getting a coat that fits the customer to a T.

 

The boys at Tsarevich

www.tsarevich.com

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One of the things that Nick Sekas mentioned to me about small operations like yours, is that as pelt prices, or the raw materials of a garment, becomes more expensive, then labor costs are a smaller part of the formula. And, with energy costs continue to climb shipping coats out of China will become more costly.

 

So, he believes he will be able to continue to provide a superior product and compete with the Chinese.

 

This assumes that they can get the raw materials. With the Chinese rapidly entering the breeding, I would think pelt supplies would increase. I do not believe the current prices have yet hit the mid-80's highs. At least I believe that was when the market peaked. After the '87 stock market crash, the fur market did as well.

 

It will be interesting to see what comes of the FBI bust of the fur actions almost two years ago in Seattle and the Grand Jury indictments from it. I wonder how much of the pelt price increases in the last two years have come from the removal of the price fixing.

 

Linda

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A local woman who sells on eBay, , is so swamped with orders for fur pillows, spreads and the like that she hasn't been able to get to my Coyote spread made.

 

I'm having to modify my plans. She's going to make me one but from pelts that she can sew on the machine.For a very reasonable price. She just doesn't have time to do the one from coats by hand. Those become pillows.

 

I guess certain areas and categories really are taking off. she's very excited about her business. She started off making pillows from used coats and now almost all her stuff is from new peltas or fur plates.

 

OFF

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OFF,

 

Pat has purchased from me. Very nice lady.

 

I agree with her. Why take a coat apart and then risk bad product when Coyote pelts are so easily obtained and cheap.

 

Fur plates are easy to work with and cheap, too.

 

I had intended to add this to my business but just too busy. Have five different professional sewing machines and fur cleaning drums and a professional steam machine.

 

By Fall I hope to have time to have redone my ebay site and have my listings caught up. Then I can hopefully start on working accessories and home products. May even try some two sided mitts!

 

Linda

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Let me add some points as to where I think the fur business might be heading. One of my 'must reads' is the excerpt of Sandy Parker Reports wich is posted on Fur Commision USA.

 

The Russians may have a larger influence on the price of pelts at the auctions than people think. The Russians stayed out of a recent mink auction and the result was a noticeable decline in the price of mink pelts at the auction. They may a silent force working behind the scenes.

 

Also the Greek furriers may be getting into the high end of the fur business. Again it was reported that 'Top Bundles' went to Greek furriers at record prices. Can we expect more from them in the near future or have they teamed up with others, such as the Italians to do the design work and they do the actual work?

 

Just a couple of items you may wish to consider as you try to figure out the direction the business will take.

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fur_babe,

 

Interesting comments. I will have to pay closer attention to that site.

 

When I first went in to the back rooms of the New York fur district I was surprised to learn the best in the business were the Greeks. I had thought that it would have been the Russians.

 

If the "Furriers" of the world team up with the "Designers" of the world, WOW!!

 

Linda

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  • 2 weeks later...

I just received this email from Nick Sekas today. Seemed to reinforce what we have been saying here.

 

Linda

 

 

 

As many of you already know, we at Sekas International have been manufacturing furs in New York for over 50 years, specializing in American labeled mink.

 

Now, more than ever, we believe you should evaluate the importance of having a small manufacturer on your side who can accommodate your needs in a timely fashion.

 

With current pelt prices having increased once again, the price differential between imports is now converging, making it cost effective to consider domestic production.

 

Now may be the time to expose your customers to the ability to order the garment of their dreams. Special orders are our specialty.

 

Nick Sekas

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