Jeans brands hit as trouble flares in denim market

Denim lovers, brace yourselves: jean prices may soar, as prices for the fabric shoot up...

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

Manufacturers are seeing huge volatility in the cost of denim, as mills abandon the approach of fixing prices for the fabric between cotton harvests and start raising prices - sometimes day-by-day - in the face of shrinking supplies. It's news that'll have many youths squirming in their skinny Uniqlos.

While we've all become used to seeing fluctuation in the prices of coffee and sugar, jeans aren't the kind of item you'd usually associate with crops and the problems they present. But now we're seeing the birth of real-time pricing in the jeans market, as the increasing confidence of shoppers and rapid growth in emerging economies pushes up the price of cotton.

And prices have moved the same way, i.e. like a rat up a drainpipe trouser-leg. Cotton prices on the ICE Futures US exchange have risen 33% in the past year, touching 15-year highs. The US Department of Agriculture this week forecast a 2.8% rise in world cotton consumption. Warehouses have emptied as a result, leaving companies exposed (muchlike the rear-end of any jean-wearing yoof who happens to bend over these days).

VF Corp, the company that owns Wrangler and Lee denim, says it expects an increase in input costs at the end of this year and into 2011. Levi's, meanwhile, has remained silent as to whether it'll be bringing Nick Kamen out of retirement and sending him back to the launderette to strip away any negative effect on sales.

They'll still have plenty of loyal customers. The youth may have moved on, but MT's very own editor proudly proclaims he's worn nothing but 501s for the past 30 years. And judging by the pair he's wearing today, it might well have always been the same pair.

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