Retail stores going fur-free as pressure campaigns change customer demands

by | May 18, 2021 | Life

More retail stores started acknowledging the importance of animal rights and the realities of the fur industry, and they are showing their support by going fur-free.

Saks Fifth Avenue, a luxury department store chain, is the latest retail store that committed to going fur-free by the end of fiscal 2022.

“Across the Saks Fifth Avenue experience, we evaluate a number of factors when making decisions about our assortment, including customer preferences and societal shifts,” said Tracy Margolies, the Chief Merchandising Officer.

“We recognize that trends constantly evolve and that the sale of fur remains a significant social issue,” Margolies said. As such, eliminating it from our assortment is the right step for us to take at this time,” she said.

With this change, Saks Fifth Avenue will stop the sale of products that use the fur of wild animals, such as beaver and coyotes, and farmed animals, including mink and fox, raised for their hides.

However, the parent company of Saks Fifth Avenue, Hudson’s Bay Company, is continuing to sell real fur in their stores and online.

The data from the Fur Institute of Canada reported the country’s fur trade adds about $1 billion to the economy, while North American domestic retail fur sales hover at around $4 billion a year.

Two-thirds of these fur products come from mink and fox farms in Canada, and about 2.8 million mink pelts are produced every year. The report from Animal Ethics showed that one fur coat usually requires between 50 to 60 minks.

Fur has been a social issue for a long time, and many animal rights activists in Canada demonstrated protests to raise awareness about the way fur animals are struggling in cages in fur farms and languishing in steel traps in the wild.

“Kids today would never wear a full fur coat, they’d be ashamed, and we need to get that same shame felt by people who are wearing fur trim, and we need to get the information about how the animals are basically tortured to get to be fur,” Jenny McQueen said.

McQueen has been an animal rights activist for more than 20 years, and she is a part of the Fur-Free Toronto, one of the organizations that pushed Saks Fifth Avenue and many other retailers to go fur-free, such as all TJX companies like Winners, Marshalls and HomeSense.

McQueen and other activists in Toronto started their protests against Saks Fifth Avenue in October 2020. They disrupted inside the stores, wrapped caution tapes around the fur racks, and locked the fur displays instead of locking the activists.

They continued with a pressure campaign in January 2021, which ended up with the retailer listening to the demands and going fur-free.

“We continued doing weekly protests there for a while, including one where we took an encrypted banner saying ‘only monsters sell fur,’ I think it just all adds to the pressure,” McQueen said.

“It’s just the right thing to do, stop selling fur, and putting a pressure campaign on top of that seemed to make it the tipping point, which we are extremely pleased with,” she said.

With animal rights activists raising awareness, more people became involved in the fur-free movement. Ina Maria Toncescu started identifying as an activist two months ago, but her journey began seven months ago when she became a vegan.

“It is absolutely concerning, ethically and also environmentally. So, if you love nature, you can’t support fur, if you love animals, you can’t support fur,” Toncescu said.

She joined fur-free pressure campaigns and started leading a fur-free campaign online against RUDSAK, a Canadian luxury fashion company, and collected 2,000 emails in six days and received support from across Canada.

“We just called somebody in one of the cities that RUDSAK sells animals’ fur, and one of the store employees said, ‘we’re looking to going fur-free, but I am not allowed to talk to you,’ and hung up the phone,” Toncescu said.

Many activists are waiting for lockdown restrictions to lift to safely protest against the retails that still sell fur. During that time, they encourage everyone to support online fur-free campaigns and hashtags.

“It takes nothing to share, it takes nothing to like and comment,” Toncescu said.

“Sharing is the word of mouth that we used to have when we were all out in the open, so it’s extremely powerful,” she said.