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Byline: ARTHUR FRIEDMAN
Fiber Prices Stabilize After Wild Ride in 2011
As the fiber and fabric industry looks to move on from the cotton crisis that gripped the fashion world this year, experts feel there are lessons to be learned and a "new normal" in which to operate.
When cotton prices reached historic highs of about $2.12 a pound in March, the supply chain, from farmers to retailers, was thrown into near states of panic. Yarn spinners and fabric mills, high on the food chain, were stuck with overpriced inventory they couldn't sell. Denim firms were scratching their heads figuring out how they were going to pass on the increased costs to stores and consumers, and brands started seeking out alternative fabrics, such as next-generation polyester and Tencel fabrics and blends. But polyester prices also topped out, ultimately forcing brands and retailers to raise prices to compensate for high-priced fabrics and yarns.
The November Consumer Price Index for apparel was 4.8 percent higher than a year earlier, the highest November-to-November increase in apparel pricing since 1987.
Marc Messura, executive vice president of Cotton Incorporated, speaking at a conference last month, said: "We have moved out of this period of very high prices, which peaked in February and March. Just as fast as they ran up, prices dropped and the market now has stabilized. …