Monitoring Cotton Trends
As editor of a major apparel news service, I have opportunities to speak with dozens of clothing companies and retailers about their products, the demands of their customers and how they plan on meeting the needs of an increasingly demanding consumer. In fact, as I write this, I have just returned from a large apparel trade show held in Las Vegas. Throughout the show, two issues dominated my discussions – first was the weather (and not just because it rained in Las Vegas last week), and the second was the condition of the cotton supply.
It was interesting for me to learn how apparel companies follow cotton supply trends. This is relatively new, as most apparel companies had previously relied upon their fabric suppliers to track cotton prices. That’s no longer the case; the runup and subsequent crash in global cotton prices in 2011 have left sourcing executives wary of any news that could affect the cotton prices. Take this year, for instance. Drought, volatile prices and global recession dominate the cotton news. Make no mistake, apparel companies are clued in.
Further, they have come to appreciate the impact of government policies on cotton, whether in terms of subsidies, tariffs or quotas. All of these factors – as we saw in 2011 – can conspire to affect the price of cotton.
It’s All About Quality
At the same time, quality continues to dominate sourcing decisions. As one company explained to me, the overall cotton crop may be down, for example, in the United States, but demand for quality cotton remains as strong as ever. Why is that? Simply put, consumers continue to demand quality apparel, which begins with quality cotton.
When cotton prices spiked in 2011, many clothing companies switched to lower priced synthetics. Consumers today, however, are critical of that switch realizing that their favorite garment lacks the feel of a quality cotton product.
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