July 12, 2009

Florida gator trade bitten by recession

Florida's alligator skin trade has been bitten by the recession, and the owner of one the state's oldest operations says he may be closing.

Ed Froehlich, owner of Froehlich's Gator Farm in Christmas, Fla., told Sunday's Orlando Sentinel that demand for hides has plummeted as customers for such luxury consumer items as alligator skin belts, handbags and shoes have disappeared. Hides from his farm-raised animals used to fetch between $180 and $245 apiece, but now, he says, there are no takers.

About every five years, the price (of hides) works its way up and then takes a dip -- we know it will happen, Froehlich told the Sentinel. But this year it's different. Nobody can make any money.

It's not that the market is low. There's just no market, added Lee Lightsey, owner of Outwest Farms in Okeechobee, Fla., who said he hasn't sold any alligator hides in about a year.

Last fall, when the stock market dropped in September and October, we lost probably 60 percent of the demand for luxury items overnight, Britt Beemer, president of America's Research Group, told the newspaper. Because the stock market hasn't rebounded, those (luxury) markets haven't rebounded.