Clothing prices rising as cotton climbs 44% since beginning of year


Cotton futures have climbed 44% since the beginning of the year, which is about 1% per day, as retail analysts confirm clothing prices rising 10% at the stores.

The worldwide shortage and low harvests of cotton have led the commodity to be one of the fastest moving raw material in 2011, and clothing manufactures are scrambling to deal with these higher costs.

In an article today by Zerohedge, cotton prices have almost doubled since last September.

Since our first warning back in September, when the world’s most worn commodity passed $1, cotton is up 95%. Annualized, the YTD move in cotton is 1,512%. We are confident clothing makers and retailers have extensive hedges in place to counteract a move that will send margins negative shortly unless there is an appropriate hedge offset, or corresponding jump in prices.

(See market chart of cotton in the slideshow to the left of this article)

Cotton is not the only material to jump in price, as synthetic materials have also risen about 50% in the past few months.

For retailers, the price hikes are already taking place.  In an article from Time Magazine online on Monday, several clothing stores have boosted prices on products 10% or more.

Brooks Brothers’ wrinkle-free men’s dress shirts now cost $88, up from $79.50. Levi Strauss & Co., Wrangler jeans maker VF Corp., J.C. Penney Co., Nike and designer shoe seller Steve Madden also plan increases.

More specifics on price increases are expected when clothing retailers such as J.C. Penney Co. and Abercrombie & Fitch Co. report financial results this month. "All of our brands, every single brand, will take some price increases," said Eric Wiseman, chairman and CEO of VF Corp., whose brands include The North Face, Nautica, Wrangler and Lee. Cotton accounts for half the production cost of jeans, which make up about one-third of VF’s sales, he told investors in November.

There is no longer a hope to believe that there is no inflation happening in the marketplace as the Fed and government reports continue to indicate.  Prices on everything appear to have been let loose to rise, and it will only get worse as retailers catch up with the rising commodity costs.

Cotton rising 44% in 44 days is a strong indicator of inflation no matter what reports or experts tell us.