Tag: variable costs

Rising costs of cloth and a rise in VAT could mean that clothes prices are set to rise. Does this spell the end of cheap fashion from the likes of Primark and H&M? Or can they absorb the cost increases?

The following articles look at the causes of the rise in costs of clothing and what the cheap fashion chains can do about it.

Articles
Primark follows fashion rivals as it warns of rising costs Guardian, David Teather and Zoe Wood (13/9/10)
Primark warns on costs as growth slows Telegraph, James Hall (14/9/10)
Is this the end of cheap clothes era? Price of cotton has rocketed because of floods, Primark warns Mail Online, Sean Poulter (14/9/10)
Fashion chains far from cheerful about future of cheap chic Observer, Zoe Wood, David Teather and Julia Finch (19/9/10)

Data
Commodity prices (including cotton) Index Mundi
Cotton futures BBC Business: Commodities

Questions

  1. Why have cotton prices been rising? Illustrate your arguments with a demand and supply diagram.
  2. Would you expect a rise in the price of cotton of 45% to lead to a rise in the price of cotton clothes of 45%, or of more than 45% or of less than 45%? Explain.
  3. For what other reasons are the prices of clothing rising?
  4. How did the process of globalisation keep the price of clothing down?
  5. Next’s chief executive, Lord (Simon) Wolfson said that if prices of Next’s clothes go up 8% then the number of units sold will fall by 10%. What is the value of the price elasticity of demand that he is assuming?
  6. Why is the ‘Fairtrade system so important’?
  7. “Some retailers have already increased prices but there is more to come. The products most under threat are T-shirts, underwear and socks. More complicated garments such as heavy jeans will be less affected.” Why are the prices of more complicated garments likely to rise by a smaller percentage than those of simple garments?
  8. What has been happening to the demand for cheap fashion clothing and why? Combine this effect with those of costs on a demand and supply diagram.
  9. What type of market structure is the market for fashion clothing? What are the implications of this for the profits of retailers?

Ginsters is a large producer of pasties in Cornwall. Most of its ingredients come from Cornwall, but the pasties are sold throughout Britain. But, not surprisingly, they are also sold in Cornwall. In fact, there is a large Tesco virtually next door to the Ginsters’ pasty plant and, as you can imagine, it does a good trade in Ginsters’ pasties, pies and sandwiches. After all, they are a local product.

But are they delivered directly from the Ginsters’ factory? No they are not. In fact, they are sent by lorry to the Avonmouth distribution depot, some 125 miles away, only to be sent back again to the Tesco supermarket next door! So does it make economic sense to incur all the costs of transporting the pasties 250 miles only to end up virtually where they started?

It is a similar story with Rodda’s Cornish clotted cream. It is made with Cornish milk but is also sold nationwide. In this case it is transported some 340 miles to get to another Tesco supermarket virtually next door to the Rodda plant.

The following articles and podcast consider the logistics of manufactured food distribution, and ask whether private costs are the only thing that should be taken into account when judging the sense of the system.

Articles
From here to eternity: 340-mile journey for clotted cream made two miles away Guardian, Steven Morris (3/9/10)
Food miles row as pasties travel 250 miles to the supermarket next door This is Cornwall (30/8/10)
Supermarket food mileage ‘completely bonkers’ BBC Today Programme, Tim Lang (30/8/10)

Questions

  1. Why does Tesco’s distribution system for pasties, clotted cream and other products made in parts of the country away from large centres of population make sense in ‘conventional economic terms’?
  2. What economies of scale are there in pasty production and distribution?
  3. What externalities are involved in the distribution of Ginsters’ pasties?
  4. Consider the arguments for and against locating mass producers of food products nearer to the ‘centre of gravity’ of markets.

The recession of the past few months has taken its toll on organic farmers. Until recently, the industry was booming as consumers switched to products perceived as greener, healthier and more ethically produced. Now, as many consumers are feeling the pinch, they are switching to cheaper foodstuffs. The resulting decline in demand for organic food has turned profit into loss for many organic farmers. According to the first of the linked articles below, at least two organic farmers are leaving the movement each week.

But what will happen as the economy recovers and people start turning back to organic products? Given that it takes some two years to convert to organic standards, there could be supply shortages next year.

As UK shoppers tighten their belts, organic farmers feel the squeeze Guardian (11/4/09)
United Kingdom-Organic slowdown Farming UK (12/4/09)
Can the organics survive the current economy? Limerick Post (10/4/09)

Questions

  1. How close to perfect competition is the market for organic foods?
  2. What determines whether an organic farmer should continue in the market even though a loss is being made?
  3. What can you conclude about the income and price elasticities of demand for organic produce and the cross-price elasticity of demand for organic food with eating out?
  4. What is likely to happen to the market for organic food over the next two years?

Having secured the 2012 Olympics, we now have to work out how to pay for it. Recent news has indicated that the cost of hosting the Olympics has risen significantly from the original estimate. However, there is considerable debate in the media about what the real cost is. The figures given are massive, but what will we be left with after the games are over? How can we value these assets? The blog below from Evan Davis looks at some of these issues and discusses the real cost of hosting the Olympics.

Why do costs overrun? BBC News Online (16/3/07)
Real cost of 2012? BBC News Online – Evan Davis blog (15/3/07)

Questions

1. Identify five fixed and five variable costs of running the Olympics.
2. Discuss the value of the opportunity cost of hosting the Olympics.
3. List the direct and indirect benefits of hosting the 2012 Olympics in London.