Just like every other good that you can purchase, there are various factors that can affect the price of alligator skin. Mostly, it’s about supply and demand. However, there are other considerations that you’ll need to take into account when you’re buying (and paying for) alligator skin.
Supply and Demand Factors
Day to Day Factors
In normal market conditions, the most influential supply and demand variables affecting the price of alligator skin are grade and size. The 40-60 cm skins with the fewest defects are the most sought after for handbags, garments, etc.; yet they are the hardest to come by. Large alligator skin comes from the wild. The larger the skin, the older the animal and thus the more it endured (scars, scratches, bites from fighting, feasting and general wear). So skins that are large in size are rarely in pristine condition. The few that are command top dollar in the marketplace.
Like any other game, alligators are subject to environmental conditions and disasters. For instance, when Hurricane Katrina ripped through Louisiana in 2005, it destroyed the alligators’ habitat causing dramatic effects on their population from eggs to feeding patterns. Naturally, this affects the supply of alligator skin from the not only from the wild – but also from the farms. Farmers collect alligator eggs from the wild (approximately 14% of the alligators are returned to the wild at a certain age to conserve their population). This means that the disaster that immediately and harshly affected the wild population affects the farms a few years later.
Katrina is a dramatic example. More normal shifts in annual weather patterns can also affect the availability of alligators. In fact, prices for wild alligator skin typically reset every year after the wild season.
Naturally, a tannery will charge more for an alligator skin that costs more to produce. For example, basic finishes like matte and glazed are typically the least expensive. On the other hand, specialty finishes that require more work, expensive chemicals or additional materials command a higher price. For example, shaving a skin to a thin, garment weight requires more time than shaving it to a heavier weight, say for handbags. Alligator skin with pearlized finishes requires chemicals that are very expensive versus the materials required to finish a matte skin. These types of costs are passed through to the customer, but they are relatively small compared to the other factors affecting price.
To some extent, these factors are supply and demand driven as well. There are only a handful of tanneries worldwide that can make certain specialized products. So if you really want a special product, you have to pay that premium price because you really can’t go anywhere else to get it.
In the case that alligator skin needs to be made to order, the number of skins ordered per product will greatly affect the price. A lot of the work that goes into producing alligator skin is set up, like mixing chemicals or dyes, setting water temperatures, etc. Whether the tannery makes one alligator skin or 100 skins, the set up time is about the same. As a result, tanneries will typically apply substantial surcharges for smaller orders.
Just remember to keep these factors in mind when you’re buying your alligator skin, as these factors (and more) can move prices. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us!
If you’ve been reading our blog, the information is fresh in your mind on how we tan the alligator skin you use in your products as well as how to select a skin for your needs. However, you might be wondering where you go about buying alligator skins. We sell them, certainly; but you might be wondering about other options and what they offer you. We’re not the only providers of alligator skin. So below, we lay out the alligator skin supply landscape for you.
Distributors are exactly what it sounds like: they buy skins from tanneries, warehouse them and distribute them to buyers. They keep a large stock on hand which is convenient for a buyer in a time crunch. However, for them to make money, they have to mark it up and charge you higher prices.
Also, their selection is limited. If you’re looking for a specific alligator skin that they don’t have, you’re out of luck—or you’ll need to go with an alligator skin you didn’t really want. Even if the distributor can source you what you want, it’ll typically be at a premium price with long deliveries and often doesn’t come out exactly how you want. When you buy directly from us, you cut out the middleman, eliminating the distributor mark up and allowing yourself the product flexibility and direct communication that you need.
Here’s the big one. We’re not the only tannery in the market for alligator skin. However, we are one of the only remaining independent alligator skin tanneries worldwide – meaning we are not owned by one of the major fashion houses. Being owned by a fashion house creates a huge conflict of interest for these tanneries as they market their alligator skin to brands outside of their corporate family. These tanneries typically charge very high prices and gain insight into their competition—you! We have no conflict of interest.
Another major issue with the tanneries is that they’re mostly outside the US. As alligator skin is classified as a wildlife product, it’s subject to both US Customs and the Fish and Wildlife review which can take time. As a result, deliveries from foreign alligator skin tanneries are commonly several months. On the other hand, we tan and finish our skins here in the United States, which means that we can ship domestically with less delay while still fully complying with all US Fish and Wildlife requirements, including full documentation and proper tagging. That means much faster deliveries without cutting corners. Communication is easy and clear as there are less time zone complications and no language barrier. In addition, we can provide much better service. For example, we can work with customers in person to develop product lines and make product adjustments in a matter of days.
Your manufacturer will sometimes offer to source the alligator skin for you. This is a good option because they know exactly what they need to make what your products. Just make sure that they don’t overbuy so they can be less diligent about the cutting. Because then you end up paying for more skin than you actually needed.
With that said, we respect our competitors very much. They are good at what they do and have been a positive force in our industry for a long time. We simply want you to know why we believe we can serve you better.
If you’re curious about any of the benefits of working with us or need some alligator skin, feel free to give us a call at (978) 741-4150 x2 or email us at email@example.com!
If you’re here on this site, something about alligator skin appeals to you, whether you’re an aficionado of alligator skin or a designer or manufacturer looking for a supply. However, you might not be a veteran alligator skin buyer just yet. Perhaps you’re just starting or you’re looking for more information regarding how you might go about purchasing alligator skin. We’re here to help.
What Are The Grading Standards?
The most important factors to consider in buying alligator skin are grade and size. Let’s start with grading. The following are common grading standards:
Divide the belly of the alligator skin into four imaginary quadrants:
- Grade I: No defects on any quadrant
- Grade II: Defects on one quadrant
- Grade III: Defects on two quadrants
- Grade IV: Defects on three quadrants
Defects are commonly holes, scars and scratches. A common misconception is that if you buy a grade III or IV skin, your finished products will have defects on the skin. This is not the case. A manufacturer experienced in working with alligator skin will cut around the defects so that your finished product will only include defect-free panels.
Grade I/II alligator skin usually makes garments, watchstraps, handbags, upholstery and luggage. Grade II/III alligator skin is usually used in shoes, wallets and boots. Grade III/IV alligator skin tends to be used for belts, and small accessories where manufacturers can cut small panels around the defects.
What About Size?
Sizing is also important to the buying process. Alligator skin is measured in centimeter width at the widest point of the belly. Depending on width of the skin, you’ll be able to make different goods using the various grades of the alligator skin. In the 20-29 cm range, you can make watchstraps, shoes, and smaller goods. From 30-34 cm, you can make small handbags, boots, and larger wallets. From 35-39cm, you can make garments, medium-sized handbags, and other medium-size accessories like tablet cases. From 40-59cm, you move into garments, larger handbags and belts. Alligator skin larger than 60 cm is most commonly used for luggage and larger upholstery.
Now, you might be curious to know what the price of these skins is going to be. Well, it is fairly logical: the most expensive alligator skin is the large grade I skins. The least expensive are the smallest, lowest grade. Another small price consideration is what color and finish you’ll be applying to the alligator skin. Will you need a specialty finish like a metallic, pearl or iridescent? Do you want a light color like yellow, pink or white? These types of products typically have small surcharges attached to them, as it is more work.
Lastly, remember that availability can also affect prices. As with any natural products, alligator skin supply is vulnerable to weather and other things out of our control.
If you have any more questions or would like to price out some skins for a project you’re working on, feel free to contact us. We’re ready to help!
Some of you might be interested in learning a bit about the tanning process for our alligator leather. Tanning is essentially the transition of a raw skin into a leather, without which the skin would be susceptible to decomposition and bacteria. The process involves these steps:
- Dry salting as a preservative measure
- Beamhouse operations:
- Soaking to clean the skins
- Liming to descale them
- Deliming to raise the acidity
- Pickling to remove bone matter
- Chrome tanning to convert the material into inorganic material
- Shaving to degrease and thin out the leather
- Re-tanning to re-soften the leather for working
- Drying (either by hang-drying or by toggling)
- Dry cleaning
- Shaving to prepare the leather for the product
- Applying the finishing touches
The Beginning Steps
When we receive the skins from the suppliers, they're boardy and extremely susceptible to the elements. They arrive salted which removes the water from the skins and preserves them until we can work them. The first stage of the process is the beaming. First, we soak the skin in water to clean the skins, remove the salt, and rehydrate the skin so that we can begin working them.
The Tanning Process
After that, we move onto liming which removes scales, nails, mucins, and natural greases and fats. It also splits the fibers and makes the collagen in the skin workable. Next, we delime the skin to raise the acidity after the liming lowers it. The next phase is the pickling which is an acid bath that helps break down the bones and calcium in the alligator skin so that it is more pliable. After the pickling process comes the chrome bath which makes the skin durable and no longer susceptible to the elements. Once this is done, it is no longer an organic skin; it has become inorganic leather at this point.
After this, we re-tan the leather, this time using vegetable-based products. This is done so that the tougher skin that results from the initial tanning process is made supple again. We then either hang-dry or "toggle" (which uses a special type of oven to evaporate the water) to remove the water and humidity. From there, the finishing process begins, where we dye the leather, shave it down to the required thickness and weight for the application, and finish it with seasons and protective coats so that it feels good, looks good, and is protected from the elements. From there, it goes onto the manufacturer where they turn it into the garments, footwear, furniture, handbags, etc. that you're all familiar with.
That is the basic overview of our tanning process, and we hope that it has been both informative and interesting to you. If you have any questions about anything in here, please feel free to comment below, and if you have any other inquiries, don't hesitate to contact us.
Alligators have been harvested for some two hundred years. Alligators were first harvested in Louisiana in great numbers in the early 1800's. These alligators were harvested for their skins which were used to make boots, shoes and saddles, and for their oil used to grease steam engines and cotton mills. The demand decreased when the leather made from the skins was thought not to be durable. In the mid 1800's the demand for alligator skins increased again. These skins were used to make shoes and saddles for the Confederate troops during the Civil War.
The Rise Of Commercial Alligator Skin Tanning
In the late 1800's and early 1900's, commercial tanning processes began in New York, New Jersey and Europe. Because this process made the alligator skins soft, durable and more pliable, the demand for alligator leather increased dramatically. By the mid 1900's Louisiana’s alligator population had been significantly reduced. In 1962 the alligator hunting season was closed statewide due to low numbers. The reduction in numbers was a result of non-regulated harvests. Detrimental harvest practices included overharvesting (today harvest quotas are set annually for each property currently hunted), non-selection of sexes which often resulted in overharvesting females (males currently comprise approximately 70% of adult alligators harvested) and no closed season, allowing hunting to coincide with nesting, which resulted in the harvest of future populations by harvesting females before they could release hatchlings from the nest or even begin nesting (current seasons are conducted in September after nesting). In 1967, the alligator was put on the endangered species list. By 1971, when the Crocodile Specialist Group began, all 23 species of crocodilian were endangered or threatened.
Alligator Farming Efforts Increase Alligator Population
In an effort to restore the animal and the industry, researchers at Rockefeller Refuge in Louisiana developed a revolutionary program of alligator farming/ranching that removes eggs from the wild, incubates and hatches them, and then, two years later, returns between 14% and 17% of those hatchlings to the wild. Upon return, they are between three and six feet in length, healthy, and capable of defending themselves in the marsh. As a result, the percentage of returns (i.e. 14%) is greater than the survival rate for eggs left in the marsh. In 1972 the alligator season was opened only in Cameron Parish and lasted 13 days. Other parishes were gradually added until the season became statewide in 1981. Louisiana’s wild and farm alligator harvests currently exceed 300,000 animals annually, while the population level (based on aerial nest surveys) remains stable.
Due to the success of this "conservation through utilization" program, the alligator was removed from the endangered species list in 1987. This program also set an example that inspired similar sweeping changes in the crocodile locales across the globe. So much so that by 1996, one-third of all crocodile species were sufficiently abundant to support well-regulated annual harvests and one-third of the species were no longer in danger of extinction but are not harvested. No other group of vertebrate animals has undergone such a dramatic improvement in its conservation status.
Source: IUCN-SSC Crocodile Specialist Group (CSG)
Source: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
Source: Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
Our handbag customers frequently ask us to help them pick the right alligator skin for their handbags. The first thing we need to know is the dimensions of the main panels (usually two same-sized panels: front and back). Our customer will usually provide those dimensions in inches, for example, 15” wide by 12” tall. We then convert that to centimeters (multiple the inches measurement by 2.55) which in this case would be approximately 39 cm wide by 31 cm tall. The larger of these dimensions (39 cm in this case) will dictate the size of the alligator we need. We take 39 cm and add 15% to be safe and we get 44 cm. This means we need one 44 cm or larger skin for the front panel and one for the back panel. Typically, handbags customers don’t want any defects on those panels so the alligator skin should be grade 1 or 2. The alligator skin bellies are used for the two main panels and the alligator skin tail and head are used for the gussets, the bottom, the handles and other adornments.
How Skins Are Measured For Leather Clutches
On smaller bags like clutches, the front and back is sometimes made of one alligator skin panel with no seams to break it up. In that case, we need the dimensions of that whole single panel – NOT front and back separately. First, measure the width edge to edge as usual. Then use a tape measure to wrap from the top of the bag on one side (under the bag) to the top on the other side. These dimensions are usually approximately 10” wide by 10” long which converts to approximately 26 cm wide by 26 cm long. Add 15% and you get 30 cm by 30 cm. So in this example, you need one 30 cm or larger skin. Again, the belly is used for the main panel and the head and tail for everything else.
There are other ways like using large, low grade skins, which at times can be more cost effective. But typically this only works if the design calls for multiple smaller panels seamed together as opposed to fewer, larger panels.
Note Of Caution: This is meant to be a general guide and may not apply to every project. We insist that you work with a manufacturer who has extensive experience with alligator skin and double check with them to make sure you are getting the right alligator skin.
A 4 Point Checklist For Choosing The Ideal Alligator Skin For Handbags And Clutches
- What are the dimensions of your main panel(s)?
- Convert those dimensions to cm by multiplying the inches by 2.55.
- Add 15% to arrive at the minimum size alligator you can use for the main panel.
- How many panels do you have to cover in that size? That is how many alligator skins you will need in the minimum size discovered in step 3.
And as always, if you have any questions about exotic skins for leather, do not hesitate to contact us.
The Importance Of Two Skins Per Pair Of Boots Or Shoes
When you are picking alligator skins for footwear, it’s essential that you know several things going in before you make your decision. Alligator skins for shoes and boots are typically ordered in pairs. Even if you’re simply making one pair of boots or one pair of shoes, the job requires two skins. From that pair of alligator skins, one pair of vamps will be cut from the bellies and one pair of vamps will be cut from the tails. The rest of the alligator skin can be used for the foxing and the rest of the shoe or boot.
Additionally, both vamps in your pair of shoes or boots should be cut from similar parts of the alligator’s belly or tail. For example, if you cut one vamp from the top of one belly, you should cut the other vamp in the pair from the top of the other belly. The same goes for the vamps cut from the tails. Otherwise, you will have different scaling size and patterns on each vamp. Ideally, you’re looking for consistency of pattern. It’s one of several distinguishing traits of fine alligator skin footwear.
Getting Specific: Alligator Skin Grades And Sizing
It is perfectly acceptable to use grade 2 or grade 3 skins for boots or shoes as long as the defects on each pair of skins are on a similar portion of the belly or tail. Remember, you’re looking for design consistency.
As far as skin sizes go, shoes usually require alligator skin that is 25-34cm wide. Boots usually require alligator skin that is 30-36 cm wide. Again, grade 2 or 3 is ok as long as you can pair off where the defects are on each skin.
Occasionally, low-grade 45-55 cm skins are used to get better yields. The same basic concepts apply. However, the scales will be much larger.
There’s a bit of difference in the process when you are using the alligator skin for the whole leg of the boot. Refer to the process described in our handbag section to determine the skin you will need to cover this section of the boot.
Contact Pan American Leathers For An Appointment At Our Showroom
If you and your clientele insist on only the best luxury exotic skins, we’ll be happy to show you varying sizes and grades of alligator skin at our New York showroom. Feel free to make an appointment with us.
According to NOLA.com, the Louisiana alligator industry is staging a comeback thanks to surging demand for alligator skin.
"After a tough few years during the recession, consumer interest in luxury goods that involve alligator skins is picking up.
"If you can't sell the alligator skins, there's no reason to collect eggs," Wall said.
But these days, with the economy beginning to show signs of improvement, the alligator skin market is experiencing an uptick.
Sales of alligator skins fell from $55 million in 2007 to $42 million in 2008. But the 2010 harvest and the expected harvest from 2011 are proof that the alligator industry is recovering.
The outlook at the moment for the industry is very positive, said Noel Kinler, a program manager for the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
"A lot will hinge on what happens in Europe," Kinler said. "If current demand remains consistent or increases, you can expect a rise in prices."
The state's gator farmers and hunters account for around 80 percent of the total production of American alligators, most of which are used for their skin, which is sent off to Europe and Asia where it is made into high-end fashion items.
Mark Shirley, an area regent for the Southwest, specializing in aquaculture and coastal resources and part of Louisiana State University's AgCenter, said the alligator industry relies heavily on the global economy because most of the skins are manufactured into products in France, Italy and Asia.
"Alligator products are a high-fashion, exotic leather," Shirley said. "It is an upscale item. Luxury goods don't sell well when people are strapped for money."
The market for alligator goods has stabilized a bit because some of the luxury goods are starting to sell again, he said. The industry always goes through ups and downs since it relies so heavily on the fashion sector and fashion trends change year to year, Shirley said.
Most money made from alligators is from the sale of their skin, with alligator meat accounting for only a fraction of the market. Last year the value of the meat harvested from gators in the state was a little over $2 million while skin value came out to over $28 million, according to data from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Farm-raised gators tend to have better skins because of the way they are raised, Shirley said. Farm-raised gators also tend to be smaller in size, producing smaller skins that are especially in demand by watch companies, he said.
"There will always be a demand for the alligator," he said. "Projections are especially good for China. Their market is getting more consumer-oriented, more people have money. Alligator skin is very popular in China."
Wall wasn't the only Louisiana alligator farmer who scaled back on the number of eggs collected during the recession, according to Kinler.
"We were faced with a significant drop-off in demand and price," Kinler said. "The industry has gone through a belt-tightening approach, reducing stocking rates in order to match up with the anticipated demands."
But after a couple of years in which farmers collected fewer eggs, they're back at it again. Farmers collected 353,176 eggs last year, up from 29,822 in 2009.
"Demand for alligators is strong enough to encourage farmers to go out and collect eggs," Kinler said. "Since the bottoming out of price and demand, we have seen a consistent recovery in skins."
Alligator farms must adhere to rules levied by the state, which sets collection numbers and demands that 12 percent of gators hatched be returned to the wild to help sustain the population. Farmers and ranchers get permits to collect eggs on private marshland, picking up eggs when the season starts in June and taking them back to their farms to await hatching. Hatchlings stay on the farm until they reach the proper age to euthanize and skin.
"It's a supply and demand game," said Wall, who added 80,000 hatchlings to his farm last year and has been entertaining visitors from abroad of late.
In May he met with a tanner from France and nine watchmakers. He expects the demand to stay strong for the next two years, but said a lot depends on what happens in Europe with the euro. Many of the skins from his gators go to make watch straps and hand goods in Europe. He spends 12 hours a day on his farm seven days a week, working most days out of the year to ensure everything is going as planned.
"It's very important for the communities and the state as a whole that we do everything in our power to promote the alligator industry," Wall said. "There's a lot of families that rely upon the capital generated in the alligator industry."
According to a recent article, as flashy glitz and glamorous products are beginning to appear 'over the top', exotic skins have become a great subtle substitute that strieks a balance between 'not boring' and 'not offensive'.
"Choices go from exotic leathers like python skin and alligator skin to ostrich skin and lizard skin. There are a lot of exotic leather -inspired printed fabrics out there, too.
People are drawn to the look because it's "discreet luxury," says Colleen Sherin, senior fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue. She sees consumers pulling back from ostentatious embellishment in favor of pieces with a longer life, and that goes for the wealthy, too.
"If we're talking about the real thing, they're investment pieces. You buy them for quality and longevity — a crocodile leather, alligator leather or ostrich leather shoe or bag — you'll truly have it forever, and you'll be able to pass it down to your children, nieces and nephews. Even the rich are thoughtful about how they spend their money," Sherin says.
And for those who cannot afford the real thing, the mimicking leathers and quite sexy prints are good stand-ins, she says.
"It's a trend because it's available to everyone," she says.
In its May issue, Harper's Bazaar features Penelope Cruz in a croc-embroidered gown and crocodile sandals by Givenchy; Salvatore Ferragamo's emerald crocodile skin beauty case; crocodile boots from Calvin Klein; and a Reed Krakoff crocodile leather luggage piece.
Yes, exotic skins and their less expensive cousins are widely available, agrees Jana Matheson, creative director of Judith Leiber, but it's still an "insider" look, which, of course, seems to make it all the more desirable.
The leather bags at Leiber run $195-$795, while genuine exotic skins can cost several thousands of dollars.
"Exotic skins are a secret luxury. It's an insider club," she says. "If you understand skins and know what you're buying, you don't have to show off. If you have a brown, beaten-up piece of luggage that happens to be croc, an innocent bystander wouldn't know it, but you would — and your friends might."
Some of the most exotic exotics she's worked with include teju lizard skins, stingrays, tree snakes and frogs, which, she explains, are so small they're used for small pieces and even then they need to be pieced together. "They are pretty inconvenient," she says.
Matheson says there isn't a single customer for the look because there is so much variety: suitcases, evening bags, belts and shoes. You can have any color of the rainbow, turn them metallic, paint them or bleach them so there are no natural markings, just the texture.
Skins and skinlike leathers take color so well, allowing people to participate in the season's other big trends: big, bold, bright and neon hues.
The trend in handbags has been clean, simple silhouettes, but now there's a bit of a backlash, says Shelby Kruzhkov, director of merchandising for handbags and small leather goods for retailer Henri Bendel. "I think we're eventually going toward embellishment again, but now, in the interim, interesting materials have become the most important thing."
Ostrich skin and stingray skin looks "very luxe and classy" and instantly elevate an otherwise simple outfit, Kruzhkov says, while snakeskin, crocodile and lizard skins can easily be incorporated into a 24-hour wardrobe, from day to night. The wearer can treat them as a seasonless "basic," even though they are eye-catching and fashion-forward, she says.
Clutch handbags are probably the most popular exotics accessory, but a satchel, suitcase or tiny evening bag are popular, too.
"There's the fantasy of where you can go with these or where you've been. Skins just say 'adventure.'"
Kara Ross who became one of the most influential jewelry and bag designers only after a few collaborations with impressive fashion ateliers that rule the couture shows. The Kara Ross fall 2012 handbag collection inspired by the trip of the accessory designer to Morocco is packed with attitude and luxury. Update your wardrobe with these scene-stealing and fashion-forward clutches and handbags. Using exotic skins such as python leather and alligator leather and a vibrant color palette are the signature design moves of Kara Ross.
However, for the autumn season we have a parade of bags tinted with classy neutral shades. Due to their all-event-appropriate quality, these accessories can be easily incorporated into a formal and sexy ensemble. Evening bags and amazing clutches will make you long for a special event you could honor with a sophisitcated ensemble. Take a closer look at the finest details like the metallic closure, the exotic snakeskin and additional skins oh-so-popularized on the runway. The name of Kara Ross is synonymous with modern luxury and sophisitcated craftsmanship. See the full article here.