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!