J.C. Penney CEO: High price of cotton is one of biggest challenges

New York City -- The high price of cotton is one of the biggest challenges that J.C. Penney Co. faces this year, chairman and CEO Mike Ullman said during a panel discussion at Southern Methodist University, the Dallas Business Journal reported.

Cotton prices in March hit their highest levels in decades after floods in Australia and Pakistan and freezes in China wiped out farmers' crops. That means consumers will see rising clothing prices for the first time in more than 20 years, Ullman said, who predicted increases of 5% to 20%.

Ullman said that higher apparel prices will make it difficult to keep customers spending in an environment where they are dealing with higher fuel and food costs.

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