The Humane Society of the United States, Born Free USA, Four Paws USA and Last Chance for Animals launched a national campaign urging the last major U.S. department store to sell animal fur to adopt a fur-free policy. If Dillard’s were to agree, it would join the ranks of its competitors including Macy’s, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue—all of which have stopped selling fur. The campaign asks consumers to contact Dillard’s during the lead-up to the retailer’s shareholder meeting in May, urging it to ditch fur products.
“As a time when all the major fashion brands have turned their back on fur, Dillard’s appears out of touch with consumer values as it continues to sell cruelly produced fur items,” said Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. “No fur trim or accessory is worth the agony animals suffer in this horrid industry.”
The Humane Society said that the Little Rock, Ark.-based retailer has a long history of problems regarding fur. In 2007, the animal rights group found Dillard’s repeatedly selling and advertising garments labeled as faux fur that were, in fact, real fur, featuring fur from raccoon dogs, a member of the same animal family as the domestic canine.
This resulted in Dillard’s being named in three petitions filed before the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and national television news coverage that linked the company to false advertising and animal cruelty. When Dillard’s “learned” of this issue, it sent a letter to each purchaser offering a full refund before the FTC investigation. The FTC found that only four garments were sold and thus determined that no further action was required.
Six years later in 2013, Dillard’s tweaked its policy to ditch garments containing raccoon dog fur. Still, according to import data accessed through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Dillard’s was a top 30 importer of fur products into the United States in 2017 and 2018. The new campaign wants Dillard’s to completely its sals channels of anything produced using animal fur. Locations in California and 13 other cities across the states, including those in Michigan and Massachusetts, have already banned the sale of fur products.
“Each year, about one hundred million animals are bred and killed on fur farms specifically to supply the fashion industry. However, thanks to animal rights campaigns, government regulations, and changing trends, the fur industry is being pushed into decline,” Chris DeRose, founder and president of Last Chance for Animals, said. “There is no denying that Dillard’s needs to change with the times.”
Data suggests that fur is indeed falling out of fashion with some consumers.
Accenture’s 2021 Impact Index for Fashion report found that animal welfare is considered the most important factor to consumers when buying apparel, with 44 percent of surveyed respondents considering it very important and 37 percent saying it’s somewhat important. This outweighed reusable or plastic-free packaging (37 percent and 43 percent, respectively), chemical usage and material composition, among several other environmental factors. And in 2019, Gen Z consumers placed more value on animal welfare than all other sustainability issues when they think about what to buy, according to the 2019 True Luxury Global Consumer Insight report by BCG.
“The frivolous use of fur as a fashion item, trim or trinket causes immense suffering to millions of animals every year. In 2023, there is no excuse for this outdated and archaic trend to continue,” Dr. Liz Tyson-Griffin, programs director of Born Free USA, said. “Dillard’s must move with the times and take the compassionate and ethical decision to rid their rails of fur items immediately.”
Going fur-free is good for retailers’ bottom line, the Humane Society argued, as it allows companies to align their policies with customers’ values. And this argument has some validity: Nordstrom’s stock went up 2 percent after it announced it was going fur-free. When Gucci and Prada publicized their fur-free policies on social media, the announcements were some of their most-liked posts of all time.
“The rest of the industry has lapped Dillard’s; there’s really no excuse at this point,” PJ Smith, fashion policy director for the Humane Society of the United States, said. “I think if [Dillard’s] saw the positive feedback that they would get from our supporters, including that next generation of shoppers who are going to have the buying power in the foreseeable future, I think that they will say, ‘why didn’t we [stop selling fur] sooner?’”
Dillard’s, which saw sagging holiday sales that forced it to discount piles of product in the fourth quarter, did not immediately respond to Sourcing Journal’s request for comment.