Wool price surge to hit suit buyers

Sunday 23 October 2011 01:37

Suits, jumpers and socks are set to become more expensive after a surge in the price of wool driven by Australian floods and demand from emerging markets.

The cost of fine wool on the Sydney Futures Exchange has risen 74% to 15,500 US dollars (£9,400) a tonne in the past year, according to commodity analysts at Mintec.

This could cause the price of a suit to rise by as much as 10% as tailors and retailers pass on the hikes to customers, reports said. A wide variety of other clothing, such as cardigans and coats made from wool, may also be affected.

The price of wool has been driven higher after global output hit an 85 year low, exacerbated by flooding and drought which disrupted farming in Australia, the world's biggest wool producer.

Many farmers have moved away from rearing sheep for wool because low prices have made it hard to make a profit in recent years, said Stephen Oldfield, a partner specialising in agribusiness at accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Rising demand from emerging economies such as China has also pushed up the price of wool and other raw materials, such as cotton and polyester. The market for wool is also being driven higher by commodity speculation, added Mr Oldfield.

He said: "For the consumer, it's a clear sign that commodity price inflation will continue to put pressure on prices at a time when they are trying to save their pennies."

Marks & Spencer, one of the UK's biggest clothes retailers in the UK, said it will try to resist passing price rises onto its customers.

A spokeswoman said: "We will do all we can to mitigate the commodity impact and maintain our opening price points where we can by maintaining M&S quality."

Not all of its suits are made of wool, with its cheapest, a polyester blend, retailing for £59, she added.

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