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Macy’s Jumps on the Fur-Free Bandwagon—Sort of

Macy’s Inc. is the latest high-profile retailer to jump on the fur-ban bandwagonbut its promise comes with a caveat.

While fur will no longer be sold at either Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s by the end of fiscal 2020, the department store company can still sell products made with shearling and calf hair.

Macy’s Inc.’s animal fur policy aligns with the Fur Free Alliance guidelines, which prohibits most animal furs but permits the use of animal hair that is a “by-product of domestic farming to feed our society,” according to department store chain’s website.

The fur policy applies to all subsidiaries of Macy’s Inc., its vendors and suppliers, according to a posting on Macy’s corporate site, which emphasized that the new fur-free policy was “developed in partnership with the Humane Society of the United States and is alignment with Fur Free Alliance guidelines, which allow ethically sourced sheep fur products referred to as ‘shearling or sheepskin,’ and cattle fur referred to [as] ‘calf hair’ and ‘cowhide.'”

The retailer’s private brands are fur free immediately while the national brands it stocks will not be made with banned fur by the next fiscal year. The Fur Vault and Maximilian Fur Salons within Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s are slated to close by the end of fiscal 2020.

“Over the past two years, we have been closely following consumer and brand trends, listening to our customers and researching alternatives to fur,” Jeff Gennette, chairman and CEO of Macy’s Inc., said. “Macy’s private brands are already fur free so expanding this practice across all Macy’s Inc. is the natural next step.”

The company remains committed to “providing great fashion and value to our customers, and we will continue to offer high-quality and fashionable faux fur alternatives,” he added.

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Aligning with the customer trend

Many fashion houses and luxury brands–including Chanel, Prada, Gucci, Burberry, Michael Kors, Versace, Stella McCartney, and e-tailers Yoox Net-a-Porter and Farfetch–have increasingly shunned the use of fur in their apparel lines in recent years. Farfetch, however, didn’t move to ban animal-fur products until nearly five months after the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals took a stake in the company when the marketplace platform completed its initial public offering in September 2018.

PETA has been urging Macy’s to go fur free since the 1980s, and on a blog from Monday detailed how the animal rights group made the retailer its prime target for its Fur-Free Friday campaign and how activists were arrested for blocking the doors at Macy’s Herald Square store in Manhattan and for disrupting the retailer’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

But Monday’s blog also revealed that PETA has a new target in its cross-hairs: “This excellent news also means Canada Goose will no longer be able [to] sell its fur-trimmed jackets at Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s.”

Macy’s decision really boils down to keeping up with what shoppers want, and a statement on its website notes that its assortment matches customer wants and needs.

“Our customer is migrating away from natural fur and we are aligning with this trend. With the rise of new fabric technology, alternatives like faux fur and other fabric innovations make this a seamless transition for our customers,” the retailer said.

California’s ban

Macy’s fur ban comes roughly a week after California governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill, AB44, that makes the Golden State the first to ban the sale, distribution and production of all new products from fur-bearing animals beginning Jan. 1, 2023. The law exempts skin converted into leather, shearling from domesticated animals or fur products used for religious purposes or by Native American tribes.

Prior to Newsom’s signing, cities across the state–including Los Angeles, West Hollywood, San Francisco and Berkeley–all had banned the sale of fur, with exceptions for secondhand merchandise and religious groups.

Next up: New York?

New York City has also been making efforts to ban fur fashion as well. The city is trying to advance legislation, Intro 1476, first introduced by Council Speaker Corey Johnson and other City Council members–Justin Brannon, Fernando Cabrera, Robert Holden, Mark Levine and Helen Rosenthal–this past March that would ban the sale of fur across the city.

The ban would include fur used for trim on apparel, accessories and footwear. Violations, as currently drafted, include a civil penalty of up to $500 for the first offense and no more than $1,500 for subsequent infractions.

In May, protestors jammed City Hall at a public hearing debating the proposed legislation.

According to Accessories Council CEO Karen Giberson, one distinct difference between the bans proposed by New York and California is that the former’s as currently drafted is overly broad.

“California excludes shearling and calf hair. New York does not,” Giberson explained. “What New York’s proposal does is open up a slippery slope. If if goes through, what else do you ban in [terms of] use or for sale?”

Giberson said the bill still is pending at the city and state levels, with no amendment for far, but also no withdrawal.

Issues raised at the May hearing indicate that concerns are far more complex than just ceasing the slaughter of animals to produce a fur coat. The New York City’s large fur industry includes manufacturing and sales, both through showrooms to other businesses and local retail doors where consumers shop.

Banning fur would more than decimate the industry, resulting in massive job losses, as well as choking off the sales tax the city collects when goods are sold. Many workers in the fur trade, with no other job training, would be ill equipped to take their skill set in fur manufacturing to other components of the fashion industry, Giberson added.

According to trade group Fur NYC, many of the small businesses in the industry are immigrant-run or founded, and have been passed down from one generation to the next. Many beauty items, such as most faux eyelashes, contain fur and even paint brushes and traditional shaving brushes often are made using animal hair, the group noted. What’s more, the “fur industry supports a large supply chain, benefitting the marketing banking and insurance sectors, among others,” Fur NYC said on its website.

Fur-related revenues are estimated at up to $850 million per year, according to the trade organization, whose fact sheet indicates the city would lose 7,500 fur-related jobs if the proposed N.Y.C. ban becomes law.

Within one year of passage, 150 small businesses would be forced to shut down, stripping $850 million in taxable revenue from the city in just the first year alone and up to $7 billion over a 10-year period. New York City’s tax revenue, or taxes it would have collected on sales, would drop $76 million in the first year, and up to $620 million in 10 years.