The warm, fuzzy truth about fur
As an old pro in the news business, I like to say, if it’s news, it’s news to me.So imagine my surprise when I opened up the paper last week and found myself exposed for “negative and clearly biased views, opinions and omissions” in a letter to the editor.The individual who would have my hide, so to speak, was a local fur retailer who took exception to my reporting of Aspen’s monthly sales tax figures. “She seems to only report her opinions and leaves out the hard facts,” according to this particular critic.I was further charged with excluding “both the fur category and any positive news about sales in this category” in these monthly updates.Guilty.The writer of the letter failed to note my other biases: T-shirts, jewelry, galleries and the sale of assorted miscellaneous items that the city cleverly groups into a category labeled “miscellaneous.” They never get a mention, either.To anyone who thinks I’ve got a PETA card in my back pocket, let me just say, I eat meat and wear leather shoes. I’ve never apologized for my place on the food/ apparel chain. The only reason I don’t own a fur myself is because I’m not allowed to own a dog where I live, and I got rid of my lucky rabbit’s foot key chain when it occurred to me it hadn’t brought much luck to the rabbit.My mom, however, has repeatedly tried to give me her fur coat, which I believe comprises the pelts of a large North American rodent – the muskrat. It sounds a little low-brow, like a squirrel stole, but it’s actually a beautiful coat. Aspen’s definitely the place for it; problem is, I think I’d look out of place in it. I’m more of a synthetic fibers fan when it comes to outerwear, though I’ve got nothing against goose down, either.But, in the interest of full disclosure, I offer this fact about fur sales in Aspen: They don’t account for a lot in the grand scheme of things, which is why they never get a mention.In 2003, fur sales were up a whopping 112 percent over the prior year – by far the most significant gain among any individual category tracked by the city’s finance gurus. In December 2003 alone, fur sales were up almost 54 percent over the same month in 2002. But here’s the kicker: Though fur sales accounted for $1.03 million in reported, taxable sales over the course of last year, that was the lowest total of any category. They made up .3 percent of overall sales. T-shirt sales accounted for more than twice the total sales of furs last year and made up .7 percent of overall retail sales in 2003, according to the city.Miscellaneous sales, whatever those are, were down nearly 9 percent last year, but they still accounted for .5 percent of overall sales, topping fur sales. Reported gallery sales dropped nearly 15 percent last year, but still made up .5 percent of overall sales. Jewelry sales were up 20.5 percent in 2003, making up 1.4 percent of overall sales.Through August of this year, the most recent stats available, fur sales are up 8 percent over 2003, so it looks like another strong year for Aspen’s furriers. But at .2 percent of overall sales, the category remains the smallest of any tracked by the city.And that’s why they don’t usually get a mention.Janet Urquhart’s real bias is against soy substitutes. Her e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org
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