What’s up with rising fabric prices?January 23, 2011
Over the past year fabric prices have been rising. First one fabric company, then another have announced increases. Like you, it concerns me very much. I had no idea why it was happening till recently, so I thought I’d share with you what I’ve learned. The following information is compiled from an article by Jim Salinas in American Quilt Retailer magazine, and an online Webinar by Moda’s president, Mark Dunn.
SO, WHY ARE FABRIC PRICES INCREASING?
Weakening Dollar: As our national debt has skyrocketed, the dollar has weakened, and therefore all commodities (including cotton) are increasing in price. The premium brands of fabric are printed in Japan and Korea, where the dollar has weakened approximately 20% in comparison to these countries’ currencies.
Worldwide Cotton Shortage: A worldwide cotton shortage has been made worse by flooding in Pakistan and China, and severe hail damage in west Texas (all major cotton producers). In addition, India has completely stopped exporting cotton and China has severely restricted its cotton exportation. The shortage in supply and high demand for cotton has caused the price of cotton to rise. In 2005 cotton cost $0.56/pound and in December 2010 the current price of cotton was $1.25/pound — which is an increase of 123%.
Other factors: As the price of cotton increases, the duty (import tax) on these goods also increases. And to add even more to the cost, UPS shipping costs have increased 4.9% this month.
One reason these price hikes are so disturbing is that the fabric industry has experienced so little inflation over the last 20 years, especially in comparison to other things. The average price of 100% cotton fabrics has only increased 20-33% from 1990 to 2010. During that same 20 year period, a loaf of bread has risen 284%, a new car costs 65% more, a pound of ground beef has risen 270% and one gallon of gasoline has increased 109%.
Quality cotton fabrics are still the best value in the United States as opposed to other countries throughout the world. Quilting is more popular (on a per capita basis) in Canada and Australia than in the United States, and those consumers routinely pay $16 to $18 per yard for fabrics. Hopefully the retail cost of fabric in the United States will not rise to those levels.
The rise in cotton prices is not just confined to the quilting industry. In a recent Wall Street Journal article (Nov 4, 2010) Holmes and Dodes wrote that shoppers will be paying more for clothing in 2011 as skyrocketing cotton prices are forcing companies to raise their prices.
Fabric vendors have been absorbing the increased cotton prices as much as possible over the past year, but they’ve reached the point where they have had to start raising their prices to the local quilt shops. Of the vendors I deal with, Moda has held out the longest without raising prices. Their retail prices will remain at $8.99/yard through April of this year, but will increase to $9.70/yard beginning in May. As a quilt shop owner, I would rather not increase my prices as the fabric vendors raise them on me, but that’s just not practical.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
I hope you realize now that fabric prices are not rising because fabric vendors or quilt shop owners are greedy and just trying to make more profit. Just the opposite is the case — fabric vendors are having to raise their prices because their costs have dramatically increased, and therefore the local quilt shops have to do the same just to survive. I hope you all will continue to buy high quality quilting fabric regardless of the sales price, but I will certainly understand if you need to cut back some. I appreciate your business very much.
How to save money on quilting fabric at Quilted Blessings:
- In October of last year I implemented a plan to help fabric move more quickly through the shop, which helps you to save money. Once fabric is no longer considered “new” in the front of the shop, it is moved to the back where it is immediately marked down 20%. The only fabrics that are never marked down are the solids, blenders, white & black tone-on-tones and wide backings. If fabric stays around too long it will eventually make its way to the 50-60% off Bargain Corner. At least half of all fabric in the shop is 20% off or more every day!
- By using your punchcard you will save an additional 10% at a later date. Your punchcard can be punched on all purchases (except for special clearance sales).
- In addition, all purchases over $75.00 will immediately receive 10% off at the register.
So even that new fabric you buy can be 20% off if you purchase at least $75 and get your punchcard punched!
I have learned of a company called Choice Fabrics near Nashville that prints a collection of very nice blender fabrics at a very reasonable price. A good friend has used them in quilts and highly recommends them. I am considering carrying them in the shop and would like your input on the subject in the following anonymous poll.