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The New York Times, dated November 2, 2010, reports: The Bon-Ton chain is raising prices on its private-label fashion items by as much as a dollar this spring, and prices will go up further next fall. And it is switching from 100 percent cotton in items like sweaters to more acrylic blends. Levi’s says it has already increased prices and may push them further north next year. And Hanesbrands, the maker of Champion, Hanes and Playtex, says price increases will be in place by February, and prices could go up further if cotton prices remain where they are. Other apparel makers say they have held the line on prices this year, but next year will be different. The V. F. Corporation, the maker of 7 for All Mankind and The North Face, says most brands will probably cost more next year, and its cotton-heavy jeans lines are particularly susceptible to increases. Jones says its increases could be in the high single digits or more. The problem is a classic supply and demand imbalance, with the price of cotton rising almost 80 percent since July and prices expected to remain high. “World cotton production is unlikely to catch up with consumption for at least two years,” said Sharon Johnson, senior cotton analyst with the First Capital Group, in an e-mail. Cotton inventories had been low because of weak demand during the recession. This summer, new cotton crops were also depleted because of flooding in Pakistan and bad weather in China and India, all major cotton producers. But demand from China, in particular, was rising. And as the economic recovery in the United States began, apparel makers and retailers placed orders for more inventory, spurring even more demand. As prices rose, speculators entered the market, driving prices even higher. “So far, it has shocked even the most veteran traders,” said Mike Stevens, an independent cotton analyst in Mandeville, La., in an e-mail. “It has resulted in panic buying by mills worldwide in order to ensure that they can keep their doors open.”

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