Shirt maker buttons down prices

Charles Tyrwhitt, Britain’s leading mail order shirt company, today promised to freeze prices despite cotton soaring to a 15-year high.

Founder Nick Wheeler said shirts in the spring/summer 2011 collection would remain at 2010 prices even though fears over a global shortage of cotton had sent prices spiralling skyward.

Rising demand in China, poor harvests in Pakistan as a result of the floods and a switch by farmers from cotton to biofuels is being blamed for the limited supply.

Wheeler also warned of knock-on effects to the price of silk, wool and leather. “It is a very tough market out there because every manufacturer wants the same thing and there just isn’t enough cotton to go round. We have seen an increased demand from growing middle-class areas in China and India and a shortage of supply which inevitably forces prices up. The floods have affected cotton-growing areas of Pakistan and there has been a general shift away from polyester and nylon.

“Thankfully we have great relationships with our suppliers and farmers but we also have to protect ourselves against the possibility of further rises by looking at other outlets for production and increasing design in other areas such as suits and shoes.”

Wheeler will spend a week visiting suppliers in Turkey at the beginning of October.

“Our quality, attention to detail and commitment to providing the best value for money sets us apart from the rest so it is vital we start with the best raw materials,” he said.

Charles Tyrwhitt posted sales of £65m last year – 30% up on the year before – and is cautiously optimistic for the current year. Sales for the first quarter have exceeded expectations and are up 40%.

It now has 14 retail stores across the UK, United States and France, with plans to increase to 50 by 2015.