– MARKETING –
N.Y. Cotton Field?
Beautiful Pima Pops Up On
By Brenda Carol
Promotional efforts continue to play a major role in the success of Pima and the Supima brand. One of the most eye-jolting examples was a field of cotton planted in downtown Manhattan last March.
Of course, the cotton wasn’t really planted. It was an arrangement of 1,000 carefully staged cotton plants with open bolls. The “field” – complete with dirt – was plopped smack dab in what had previously been a parking lot on East Houston Street, one of the city’s major arteries as well as one of the prime entrances to the SoHo and NoHo shopping districts.
The cotton field literally stopped taxi drivers and passersby in their tracks because most people had never seen the likes of it. It was designed to draw onlookers into a “pop-up” store that showcased Supima labeled clothing.
“People couldn’t believe their eyes,” Buxton Midyette, Supima’s vice president of marketing, says about the daylong event. “Tourists were posing in front of it. Commuters were leaning out of their cars. Cell phone cameras came out. Jaws dropped. It was one of those magical New York moments...people were doing double takes.”
The cost of the promotional event in New York was less than $10,000, but returned an estimated public relations value of somewhere in the millions. That’s just one example of the many campaigns that Supima has initiated to promote the brand and reach a broad range of influencers.
Global Demand For Pima
California’s cotton acreage is expected to plunge yet again in 2009, but industry forecasters are certainly not shopping for tombstones for the fiber just yet. One positive factor to consider is the global demand for Pima, and Su-pima is aggressively promoting it.
“American Pima (Supima) is still distinguished for its high standards and reliability as compared to other long staple and ELS cottons around the world,” says Supima President Jesse Curlee, Phoenix, Ariz.
That reality continues to resonate throughout the global marketing chain, and it’s backed by the Supima name. In order to use the Supima trademark, textile mills, apparel, textile manufacturers and retailers are granted a license. In return, they are allowed to market and promote textile, home fashion and apparel products made of 100 percent American Pima cotton. Currently, more than 300-fine count textile mills, manufacturers and retailers from around the world are licensed to use the Supima brand.
“Mills, brands and retailers around the world can be assured about the quality standards of Supima cotton,” Curlee says. “Supima is the only premium fiber that has an ongoing program to assure customers that the product is made with American Pima/Supima cotton.
“Egyptian or other ELS type cottons can be blends with upland type cottons or long staple cottons, rather than ELS cottons. Supima’s licensing program requires the entire supply chain verify their product is made with American Pima cotton. No other premium cottons have those requirements.”
Trend Should Continue
It’s difficult to predict how much cotton will be planted in California this year, but it’s a good bet the majority will be planted to Pima.
“I think we’ll realistically see about 150,000 acres of cotton grown in California in 2009,” says Earl Williams, president and CEO of California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association in Fresno, Calif.
“Of that, there will probably be about 100,000 acres of Pima and 50,000 acres of short staple. That’s a conservative estimate at this point, but things could obviously change in the next few months.”
Even though that’s a considerable decline from the 1.5 million acres that were once grown and slipped to 450,000 last year, that figure could recover somewhat in future years.
“I think the supply and demand situation will improve by the end of 2009, and we will see a stronger market in 2010,” Williams says.
California, as well as other western states, continues to provide the bulk of Pima production due to the region’s ideal growing conditions.
“I think that California will continue to be the largest producer of Supima cotton,” Curlee says. “I expect the Texas/New Mexico area to continue at current levels and perhaps increase production slightly.”
Cotton Could Rebound
Another issue affecting current cotton acreage is the price of competitive commodities such as wheat, alfalfa and corn. While those prices have skyrocketed in recent years, the outlook for ’09 and ’10 does not appear quite as rosy. There are similar outlooks for other commodities, which are tempting producers to consider cotton once again, particularly if the fiber is branded and promoted aggressively.
“Pima prices need to be in the $1.50 range for growers to survive in today's business climate,” Curlee says. “With the economic problems in the world, I think you are going to see demand down and most of the demand will be for ‘Supima’ branded products. The good news is our licensing program continues to expand as our brand becomes better known.”
Despite marketing challenges and market realities, Pima will continue to be an attractive crop for producers in western states, according to Curlee.
“Obviously, this is not the best of times for cotton growers, but it will change,” he says. “As long as we can create a demand – and, believe me, it can be done for Supima cotton – they will grow this fiber. There are just too many positive things happening in the market for Supima cotton, so there will be a demand and a price to make it worthwhile to Pima growers.”