Organic Exchange Conference: Global Organic Cotton Sales Top $1 Billion

As the Organic Exchange (OE) commemorated its fifth anniversary at its recent annual conference and marketplace, held Oct. 31- Nov. 2 in Monterey, CA, the grassroots organization announced another key milestone.
Releasing its organic cotton market report at the conference, the not-for-profit group disclosed figures affirming the mounting strength of the green movement. The OE reported that annual worldwide retail sales for organic cotton products, led predominantly by apparel, eclipsed the $1 billion mark ($1.1 billion) for the first time ever in 2006. According to the OE, sales improved 85 percent over 2005's sales of $583 million; and the numbers reflect a steep climb from 2001 global sales of $250 million.
The numbers are reflected in the growth of the OE, whose conference convened 330 people from 39 different countries representing the global organic fiber supply chain. By contrast, the OE's first annual conference drew 40 participants.
Presentations by major big box retailers and brands such as Nordstrom and Nike also offered the clear message that the organic cotton industry is no longer considered a fringe movement, but an integral component of a massive cultural shift.
"What's driving the growth? It's a lot of consumers out in the world in force," said former OE executive director Rebecca Calahan Klein, the primary author of the report. She noted that in the United States, for instance, 50 percent of women surveyed now say they want greener products, and 11 percent of those indicated they'll be "extreme green" shoppers in five years.
A key theme sounded at the conference was that the eco-friendly apparel realm is gaining prominence as the fundamental reasons behind consumer choice change; part of that development is a younger demographic demanding greater degrees of transparency.
Impacted by events such as September 11, the war in Iraq, the collapse of big businesses such as Enron and Worldcom, as well as a more digital world, younger consumers are increasingly concerned about "how" their products are made, according to Rene Labbe of the organic marketing group Creative Research Unit.
"They're not as concerned with being entertained as they are with being informed and educated," said Labbe, noting the popularity of movies including March of the Penguins and Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. As the cultural shift continues, the "green equals granola" myth is clearly fading away, Labbe said.
As consumer demand rises, companies, both established and new, are responding with more intricate and transparent supply chains, said Klein.
The five companies reported to be using the most organic cotton in 2006 were Wal-Mart, Nike, Coop Switzerland, Patagonia and Otto (Germany). But the industry has swelled to more than 1,500 other brands and retailers, Klein said, and popular fashion designers, including Stella McCartney, are also supporting the movement.
OE predicts it will have more to celebrate at future events: 2007 sales figures for organic cotton are expected to be near $2 billion, and to reach nearly $7 billion by 2010.
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The Athlete's Foot Introduces Next-Generation Store
The Athlete's Foot (TAF) has opened its first next-generation TAF performance store in Tuscaloosa, AL. The franchise location is the first in the world to feature the new store design, logo and merchandising system that was announced by TAF's parent company, NexCen Brands Inc., with the goal of "changing the face of footwear retailing."
Said NexCen's president and CEO, Robert W. D'Loren: "The industry is increasingly driven by the overall lifestyle of our consumers, not just the technical aspects of footwear. Our new TAF brand and store embodies this shift in the retail climate by creating an apparel and footwear performance shop that appeals to everyday athletes."
The new TAF will feature a sleek, modern corporate identity that replaces the 36- year-old Athlete's Foot logo; a store design inspired by the athletic lifestyle, featuring awnings and banners meant to evoke a "race day" atmosphere; and an innovative merchandising system that allows customization of store offerings to suit individual communities and athletes.
NexCen began the TAF re-branding effort after acquiring The Athlete's Foot brand in November 2006.

B2X Corp. Acquires Assets from Hampshire Group
B2X has acquired the David Brooks trademarks and all associated inventory from Hampshire Group Ltd., the New York-based men's and women's apparel company. B2X has also acquired the rights to the Marisa Christina trademarks in all countries other than Japan, where Hampshire has an active license through November 2009.
The acquisition will move B2X closer to its goal of providing quality apparel products to buyers via its global trading platform.
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Kellwood to Sell Smart Shirts to Youngor Group
Kellwood Co. has sold its Smart Shirts manufacturing operations to Youngor Group Co. Ltd. for approximately $120 million. Separately, the company has sold its Smart Shirts real estate assets in Hong Kong to Bright Treasure Development Ltd. for approximately $41 million.
The company plans to use the proceeds from the sale to repurchase shares and reduce debt.
Kellwood reports that it chose to sell Smart Shirts because it did not fit with the company's longterm strategic plan to develop better and above-price point brands and focus on transforming Kellwood into a brand-focused marketing enterprise.
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Jockey Launches Retro-Style Underwear at Urban Outfitters
Jockey International Inc. has taken a trip back to the '70s with the November launch of Jockey Y-Front Briefs, a new line of retro-style men's underwear available at Urban Outfitters.
The 100 percent cotton low-rise briefs feature bold, vibrant colors with contrasting white accent trim to create a hip, retro look reminiscent of popular styles from the 1970s.
"The youthful spirit infused into this new line is targeted toward a younger, more fashion-forward consumer," said Bob Nolan, Jockey's president, North American wholesale and licensing. "We feel that the unique style and packaging of Jockey Y-Front Briefs will appeal to Urban Outfitters' consumers who are looking for iconic, retro clothes that fit their lifestyles."
This month, Jockey will expand the collection at Urban Outfitters with a line of retro-style trunks.
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Hanesbrands Inc., Walt Disney Parks Announce Strategic Marketing Alliance
Hanesbrands Inc. and The Walt Disney Co. have announced a 10-year strategic alliance.
The alliance includes basic apparel exclusivity for the Hanes and Champion brands, product co-branding, attraction sponsorships and other brand visibility and signage at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts properties.
Among other things, Hanes will be the presenting sponsor of the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, one of the park's most popular attractions. It will also have a customizable apparel venue in Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort that will enable guests to design and personalize their own custom T-shirts and other items.
Additionally, Champion will have naming rights for the stadium at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex. In addition to Champion Stadium, there will be brand placement and promotional opportunities throughout the 220-acre complex, which attracts more than 1.1 million visitors and 240,000 athletes annually.
The alliance also includes in-store promotional and brand building opportunities at ESPN Zone restaurants and stores.
"The Walt Disney Parks and Resorts alliance represents the largest marketing partnership to date for Hanesbrands and for our two largest brands, Hanes and Champion," said Kevin Hall, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Hanesbrands.
"Our strategy is to focus on select, large-scale opportunities that leverage the size, strength and growth trends of our brands."
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