Nordstrom has pledged to halt the sales of fur and exotic animal-skin merchandise by the end of 2021, embracing a zeitgeist that has seen the luxury materials lose their luster in recent years over surging animal-welfare and responsible-sourcing concerns.
The new company-wide policy, announced by the pandemic-battered department store Tuesday, includes nearly 600 of its flagship, Nordstrom Rack and Last Chance stores, along with Nordstrom’s e-commerce sites. The commitment, a press release noted, was “made in partnership” with the Humane Society of the United States, an animal-rights group that has been urging brands to ditch fur over the past decade.
The move, according to Teri Bariquit, chief merchandising officer at Nordstrom, forms a component of the retailer’s “ongoing product evolution.” Its private-label brands, she said in a statement, “haven’t used these materials for years,” so extending the policy to all the brands it carries is a “natural next step for our business.”
“As a leading fashion retailer, we’re committed to delivering the best possible service and merchandise for our customers,” Bariquit added. “Delivering on that commitment means continually listening to customer feedback and evolving our product offering to ensure we’re meeting their needs.”
Nordstrom joins fellow department stores Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s in nixing fur from its offerings nearly a year after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals brandished undercover video depicting the abuse of animals such as minks, chinchillas and sables at farms in Russia that it linked to the retailer.
In a statement to Sourcing Journal in December, Nordstrom said it “tries to balance” concerns about animal welfare with the needs of its customers, many of whom “want to be able to purchase fur products” at the department store.
“We’ve been paying close attention to this topic, particularly given the recent announcements coming out of various brands, publications and local governments,” a spokesperson said. “We realize our customers have different opinions, and our commitment to them has always been to listen to that feedback and be open to change.”
The circumstances for the reversal of heart remain unclear, though San Francisco’s fur ban took effect in January, and cities such as Los Angeles and New York are expected to follow suit.
Nor are the reasons obvious for its animal-welfare one-upmanship: Nordstrom is the first U.S.-based retailer to also ban skins from exotic animals, including kangaroos, snakes and alligators. It follows a smaller but growing group of high-end brands that have outlawed the materials, including Brooks Brothers, Chanel, Diane von Furstenberg, Mulberry and Victoria Beckham. PVH Corp., which owns Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, announced this month, too, that it will no longer employ exotic skins as part of a “long-term strategy to drive fashion forward for good.”
With fur all but off the table and exotic skins now falling out of favor, the luxury industry may have to fundamentally rethink what “luxury” means outside of pelts and hides.
“We applaud Nordstrom for ending the sale of fur and becoming the first U.S. based retailer to ban exotic animal skins,” said Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. “This is a pivotal step toward a more humane business model and a safer world for animals, sending a clear message that animals should not suffer for the sake of fashion. Nordstrom’s decision will surely have a ripple effect on other influential fashion leaders.”
Nordstrom’s news comes just as France declared it would end mink fur farming and require the country’s remaining four fur farms to cease operations no later than 2025. Earlier this month, Poland announced a bill to make fur verboten after undercover footage from the nation’s largest fur farm appeared to show “cannibalism, aggression, self-aggression, open wounds and paralysis of minks’ limbs,” according to campaigners.
More bad news may be coming down the pipeline for fur producers: The U.K. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is reportedly mulling a ban on fur sales, two decades after Britain became the first country in Europe to ban fur farming.
But the fur lobby isn’t going down without a fight—or without lobbing some well-aimed legal bombs. In January, the International Fur Federation, an industry trade group representing 56 member associations across more than 40 countries, filed a lawsuit against the city of San Francisco accusing it of attempting to “legislate morality.” It similarly hit out last March against New York’s anti-fur bill, saying it will “shutter a thriving industry with good-paying middle-class jobs for more than 1,000 New York City residents.”