The Chinese economy is continuing to grow at a pace that most western economies can only admire. Over the last ten years, the Chinese economy has been the fastest growing economy in the world, with growth rates in excess of ten percent every year. In 2011, the gross domestic product averaged 9.1 percent. Forecasts for 2012 are more guarded but continued growth is being predicted and there is a general feeling of optimism as the retail season kicks into high gear.
The domestic fur market in China, dominated by mink, has continued its incredible expansion, with new manufacturers getting into the business every year and new retail fur malls continuing to open. Marketing to men is also becoming trendy – men’s mink jackets, in black or brown, are beginning to appear in retail stores, along with leather and cashmere jackets lined with mink, muskrat and squirrel.
Retail sales in the opening month of the season, October, were equal or slightly lower than the same period in 2010. November opened at a slower pace and has not gained a lot of momentum, mainly because of unseasonably warm weather. Temperatures in Harbin, in northern China, have only just dipped below zero during the day and snow only arrived the last week in November. Further south, temperatures are still warm and retailers are looking forward to the cold weather arriving to spark retail sales.
Inflation in China is affecting consumers as they grapple with increasing prices for food and other day-to-day items. Retailers report that traffic in malls is similar to last year but convincing consumers to buy seems to be a little more difficult this year.
Overall, there is guarded optimism in China as the economy continues to grow but warm weather has hampered the beginning of the retail season. The one thing that is needed now is cold weather, which would create an upsurge in the retail fur market very quickly.
Korea continues to be a market that covets quality and the consumer is well educated and very brand conscious. NAFA is recognized as the leader and we are the largest mink exporter into that market. The fact that Koreans recognize quality is advantageous for the NAFA label, particularly Black NAFA and the new enhanced label.
Early sales in late July and through to early October were brisk and ahead of 2010 levels, but things began to slow down in early November because of warm temperatures. Sales have now stalled as a direct result of the weather, with one or two exceptions. The weather forecast for early December shows temperatures dropping and retailers are expecting this will stimulate sales once again. Department stores have begun to hold their holiday sales which could help lure consumers into the stores and create some renewed interest in fur.
Korea still has a stable economy and throughout the luxury goods sector, sales are expected to grow.
The enhanced Black NAFA label, which highlights the names of our premier producers, is receiving strong interest from Russia – retailers are promoting the label and perceive it to be a positive for adding prestige to an already well known and coveted brand. The fashion media in Russia is equally impressed – editorial coverage has been extensive and positive.
Sales at the start of the retail season in Russia are down almost 15 percent compared to last year. Weather is the key word when assessing the retail market in this important market. Key cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg have been experiencing record warm temperatures and even in Novosibirsk, Siberia, which is notorious for its snow and cold weather, the temperatures have been unusually warm.
Overall in Russia, the more commercial goods are moving very slowly and the better goods are said to be selling, albeit at a much slower pace than normal at this time. The real start to the winter season, when snow and cold weather arrives, is needed in this important market.
There is guarded optimism in the industry at this point in the season. Right now, everything seems to hinge on Jack Frost delivering a cold blast of arctic air to the key fur markets around the world. Once the cold weather arrives, retail activity is expected to pick up. NAFA will keep you updated as the season progresses.