Risks of a Fur Business - Making up of Furs - Selection of Premises - Stock Required - Change of

Fashions - Preservation of Furs

Although a trade of immense interest, it must be remembered that there is not a large amount of business to be done in furs, because they are very expensive, and are bought only by those who can afford luxuries.

Still, if a shop in a high-class neighbourhood can be secured, and a woman has somewhere about 2,000 capital, and some experience gained either in a furrier's or drapery store, there is a business to be done. Some experience is absolutely essential, for without it heavy losses may be made, and the business killed before it has had a chance to become a success. If a business be successfully established it is one of which the successful fur merchant may well be envied, for she has nothing to write off for depreciation of stock, and her business is one that requires work practically only eight months out of twelve. More than this, stock, if properly packed away when trade is off, actually increases in value, for furs are always going steadily upwards in price.

The summer months may, however, be occupied by the practical woman in making up stoles and other articles for the next winter's trade. Or, again, she may devote herself to the sale of feather boas and so forth during the season when the stock of furs is packed away.

There is a recognised system of apprenticeship in operation among furriers, and, naturally, a young woman who has served, say, five years, studying the trade of preparing and making up has a much better chance of success when she comes to start in business as a fur merchant than one whose only knowledge of this intricate craft has been gained in a drapery establishment. The fur merchant with the trade at her fingers' ends will be able to make up and do repair work herself, thus adding to her profits money which she would otherwise spend in paying to get such work done outside.

The selection of premises for this business, of course, is of the utmost importance, and a shop should be found in the West End of London or the best part of a large provincial town, where good-class residents abound. If the shop be in the West End of London, a high rent must be paid - probably as much as six to eight hundred pounds per annum, or even more than that.

The fitting up of the establishment should be in the best and most dignified style, and somewhere about 200 to 300 will be spent in mahogany drawers, cases, and counters. Brass stands for showing goods, mirrors and a good carpet will be necessary. Any first-class shopfitter will prepare plans and estimates suitable to the establishment, and submit them for the fur merchant's approval; and, in fact, on a point such as this the shopkeeper is well advised to go to such an expert, to whose designs she can always add her own ideas. The establishment should be ready by the end of August, and business started in September or October. The First Stock As the wholesale houses are always willing to send to their known clients sets of furs, on approval, likely to suit a customer, the practical furrier never overstocks, preferring to take advantage of this convenient system when she has a customer who cannot be satisfied from her own limited stock. Of course, a fair stock is essential to attract buyers, but the amount to be laid out must depend upon the capital with which it is proposed to start. With a good selection of fur linings, trimmings, rugs, stoles, muffs, and necklets, which comprise the better selling lines, she would make up her stock somewhat as shown in the following table :




Hand muffs ... ..

One or two, accord-ing to amount of outlay.

Opossum, natural opossum, genet, Persian lamb, bear, raccoon, natural raccoon, grey squirrel, lynx, grey astrachan, musquash, fox, seal, otter, skunk, sable, grey and natural moufflon, mink, beaver, black and white Thibet, baum marten, marten, chinchilla, ermine.

Carriage muffs .. ..

One or two, accord-ing to amount of outlay.

Opossum, black and grey astrachan, musquash, beaver, seal, ermine, chinchilla, skunk, black and white Thibet, sable, and beaver.

Bag, or flat-shaped, muffs. .. ..

One or two, accord-ing to amount of outlay.

Seal, beaver, black Persian lamb, musquash, skunk, and mink.

Children's muffs .. ..

A few .. .. ..

White - various furs.

Fur linings for cloaks..

To be purchased as required.

Grey and white squirrel, all-grey squirrel, kaluga, hamster.

Fur trimmings ... ..

According to likely trade. To sell by the yard.

Black and brown rabbit, bear, fox (white, grey, etc.), raccoon, opossum, white hare, natural raccoon, lynx, beaver, ermine, chinchilla, grey squirrel, skunk, natural and grey moufflons, white and black Thibet, Alaska fox, celestial fox, black and grey astrachan, mink, seal musquash, natural musquash, otter, sable, and stone marten.

Lighter trimmings .. .

According to likely trade. To sell by the yard.

Fitch, grebe, kolinski, lamb (white astrachan, krinmer, Persian), marmot, miniver, and nutria.

Perambulator fur rugs (on coloured cloth). ..

Say one dozen.. ..

Bear, white or grey Himalayan goat, grey opossum, wolf, jackal, white Thibet, and wolverine.

Fur cuffs and gaunt-lets.

As required .. ... ...

Various furs.

Carriage rugs .. ..

Say one dozen .. ..

Australian bear, black, brown, and grizzly bear, opossum, Himalayan black and grey goat, jackal, Japanese fox, lynx, raccoon, wolf, wolverine, grey and red fox, mink, sable, beaver.

Jackets and coats in different styles. ..

According to estab-lishment.

Sealskin, musquash, etc., according to fashion, information . as to which will be gathered at wholesale houses.

Stoles .. .. ..

Varied selection ..

Sable-dyed marmot, Arctic fox, chinchilla, and others.

Ties .. ..

A good selection ..

Hudson Bay sable, imitation silver pointed fox, Persian lamb and Persian paw, mink, baum and stone marten, and caracul.

Of course, the stock indicated in the above table is not all necessary to every establishment, for our fur merchant may wish to specialise in one particular branch and, as has been said already, the wholesale houses are always ready to send furs on approval, which the merchant may in turn submit to her customers.

The fashions, too, will pass away with the season, so that great care must be taken not to overstock articles which will be thus affected. It is here that experience tells where no written advice could serve.

Storage Of Furs

Not the least important part of the furrier's business is the storage of customers' furs during the summer, a branch that is encouraged because it brings with it repair work. Many furriers have special chambers kept at the proper temperature for storing their customers' furs, which have to be constantly overhauled, beaten, and examined, the experienced eye tracing the presence of moth eggs or larvae by scraps of fur which fly out during the examination. Small articles are sometimes wrapped separately in paper which is pasted down so as to form a casing that is almost airtight and quite mothproof. Such packages are kept in a cedar box or drawer containing pepper or naphthalene. Coats are hung on hangers and enveloped in holland bags with drawstrings at the top. Camphor is not used a great deal, because of bleaching properties which it is said to possess, preference being given to coal-tar derivatives and cedarwood as moth preventatives. The fur merchant will charge about one per cent. per annum on the fur's value for the storage, guaranteeing that the articles will be kept free from moth and insuring them against fire. West End firms, however, who have properly fitted cold and other storage accommodation for furs charge as much as one per cent. per month. The beginner must fix her charge in accordance with her establishment.

A gross profit of 33 1/3 per cent. must be made on all furs sold, and everything should be done by the practical furrier to encourage orders for making up customers' own skins, and jobbing repair work of all kinds.

By J. T. Brown, F.z.s., M.r.san.i.

By J. T. Brown, F.z.s., M.r.san.i.