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What is a label worth? Defining the alternatives to organic for US wool producers

John C. Bernard (Department of Applied Economics and Statistics, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware, USA)
Gwendolyn Hustvedt (Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, Texas State University‐San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas, USA)
Kathryn A. Carroll (Department of Consumer Science, University of Wisconsin‐Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA)

Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management

ISSN: 1361-2026

Article publication date: 5 July 2013




As sustainability efforts have increased across the apparel and textile industries, consumers are being exposed to an increasing variety of information and label claims. The purpose of this paper is to determine consumer willingness to pay (WTP) for locally produced animal fiber products with organic and alternative labeling schemes, which included eco‐friendly, natural and sustainable.


Experimental auctions were used to elicit bids on wool socks from consumers across three Southern US states. Means were computed for the various bids, as well as bid differences before and after definitions. To test for significance, non‐parametric Wilcoxon signed‐rank tests for matched pairs were performed for all differences investigated.


Consumers indicated higher WTP for all versions over conventional wool socks, with the highest WTP exhibited for organic. WTP for organic versions further increased after definitions were provided. Natural and eco‐friendly versions had larger premiums than sustainable, but this difference disappeared after definition.

Research limitations/implications

The experimental setting brings the results closer to actual consumer behavior, but eliminated many additional variables that consumers consider.

Practical implications

The results of this paper indicate that policy makers should consider definitions and certification for claims besides organic to potentially benefit wool producers.


This research provides consumer WTP comparisons for a variety of labeling terms currently appearing on wool apparel products. Uncovering this information provides greater understanding of consumer WTP for wool with such attributes, especially after definitions are presented.



Bernard, J.C., Hustvedt, G. and Carroll, K.A. (2013), "What is a label worth? Defining the alternatives to organic for US wool producers", Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 266-279.



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