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Feeling the Impact of Climbing Cotton Prices

“It was a perfect storm,” explained Hal Majors, director of purchasing at Drury Hotels. “Cotton mills in Pakistan and India began hording to drive up the price of cotton. Then an atypical monsoon season flooded Pakistani mills. There was no rise in demand until the flooding issues in 2010. Add to that the rising costs of shipping – prices have gone from $3,500 to $5,000-6,000 per container – and you have the perfect storm for record-high cotton prices. We thought we had staved off increases until the fall of 2010, when prices suddenly shot up 60 percent.”

Locally, Jeff Theiss, general manager of Drury Inn & Suites of Flagstaff, said, “I haven’t seen any results from the rising price of cotton. Drury Inn has its own supply company that is buying in bulk for 140 hotels. If we see anything in the future, will depend on how much is in the warehouse.”

“My job is to keep the prices down so Jeff doesn’t see the result of the rising price of cotton,” laughed Majors, from his headquarters office in Missouri. “I was able to lock down prices for sheets and towels for the next six months. We get bids from 11-13 suppliers and many of them would not lock prices for more than 90 days.”

With cotton prices at their highest since the Civil War, local businesses are starting to feel the pinch. Ed Goodwin of Flagstaff’s Print Raven in Flagstaff said, “We are seeing the price of t-shirts increasing. Just yesterday, I got two emails from vendors notifying me that the rising price of cotton was affecting their t-shirt prices. One vendor said they could hold current prices for the next two weeks, but after that we could expect to see 10-18 percent price increases.”

“We’ve seen an uptick in price of linens,” said Fred Reese of Little America Hotel, who recently ordered table linens for the hotel’s banquet facilities. Little America’s sheets, towels and linens are all laundered on-premise in a new laundry facility built last year. “I had a huge expense last year just to get stocked up,” said the general manager, who contracted with Mission Linen to supply cotton products prior to building the state-of-the-art laundry facility. “We built the facility for self-sufficiency and to have more control over the quality of the products.”

“The cotton market has deteriorated into panic buying, as prices have risen over 80 percent since July,” said Greg Eubanks of Standard Textile Co. in an email. Standard Textile Co. supplies terry and sheeting products to Little America’s parent company.

Reese, who orders cotton products through Little America’s procurement officer, expects to see further increases in what he pays for towels and sheets when he does his annual order later this year. He said, “Our costs have risen due to the rise in cotton prices.”

Theiss is more concerned about the rising gas prices. “The price of the gas is the next big thing. I wonder how that is going to impact tourism in Flagstaff.” Theiss revealed that his business has been up over last year. “The vast majority of guests come from Phoenix now, but international visitors start coming this month. We have two more bus loads of international visitors coming tonight.”

If the price of cotton gets high enough, hotel guests of the future could be sleeping on polyester blend sheets that Majors saw at the New York International Hotel Show earlier this year. But for now, Majors said, “I wouldn’t buy polyester sheets. Cotton is a natural fiber that breathes. With cotton being such a comfortable, wearable fiber, its rising cost touches everyone’s life.” FBN

Drury Inn & Suites of Flagstaff

300 South Milton Road, Flagstaff

Little America Hotel

2515 East Butler Avenue, Flagstaff

Print Raven

1300 S Milton Road #125, Flagstaff


Photographed:  Shanna Madros, housekeeping in Flagstaff



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