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Cotton prices fall but retailers reap no benefit

British fashion industry players have expressed frustration at the lack of a trickle-down effect from the falling price of cotton around the world.

Global cotton prices, having been falling since 2011, dropped 23% between June and August 2014 alone, according to UK organisation Cotton Outlook. However, those contacted by Drapers had yet to see any effect, with many saying the fall was likely to be offset by other costs.

Adam Mansell, director of special projects for the UK Fashion & Textile Association (UKFT), welcomed the drop, pointing out that prices reached a record high of around $2.30 (£1.40) per pound of cotton in 2011. It is currently 68 cents (41p). But he added: “Falling prices will be offset by labour costs, shipping and so on, which are all going up.”

Mukesh Desai, owner of streetwear brand Borough 33, said: “We’re at the higher end of the market; there is a lot of workmanship involved, so any reduction in cotton costs are swallowed up in manufacturing.” Other brands told a similar story.

One high street supplier told Drapers any benefit they might have seen from the falling prices had been offset by the rising cost of sourcing from Bangladesh in the wake of the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013.

Experts have attributed the accelerated fall in prices to China’s decision earlier this year to sell off its large stockpile, coupled with a bumper US cotton harvest in 2014-15.

Jon Devine, senior economist for US organisation Cotton Incorporated, expects prices to stay low for the next couple of years.

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