Of luxury markets hit hard by the economy, one of the strangest is Louisiana alligator business, which dried up so fast it went from hatching 500,000 eggs last year to none this year. The speed of the collapse is raising suspicions that there's more to it than consumers shunning $4,000 shoes and $12,000 watchbands, the New York Times reports.
Prices offered to gator farmers for skins have bottomed out even as prices for alligator bags, shoes, and watch straps have continued to rise. The culprit, farmers say, is Hermès, which in the '90s bought out many of the independent tanneries to become the dominant player. They accuse Hermès of hoarding skins to extort other fashion houses, forcing competitors to stop using alligator, and in the process destroying their livelihoods.