Same time next year: the trials of the trade show

It is only when you leave a trade fair that you truly realise whom you have missed. During the fair itself you concentrate intensely on meeting certain “targets” and are delighted with the additional serendipitous encounters that occur so that it is on the flight home that you start adding up the list of the missing.

The recent Lineapelle and Tanning-Tech had more gaps than most. Some were obvious since Tanning-Tech was down to just two halls one for chemicals companies and the other machines, but the chemicals in particular were missing the majors, even some of the Italian majors.

Some of those not showing attended the meeting the day before on Reach and Innovation to which for some reason the UoN did not get an invite despite our obvious involvement, especially via the new Leather Futures Research Group and others walked the show with the little “wheelie” in tow. Perhaps some of the chemical companies were glad to be scarce as they have spent 18 difficult months trying to get prices up to recover lost margin only to find that many of the sectors are on short time and sending containers back.

So Bologna this year was less about new leathers and ideas and more about trying to assess how life is going to look in 2009. Currencies, raw material prices, customer volumes and the look of the balance sheet are the things that matter today.

For the University there are some different issues. Collecting missing alumni and getting the “centenary list” and potential sponsors sorted were the priority. The list is now growing long and the first bookings have been made for the July weekend in Northampton and London.

So while the Lineapelle show remains frustrating and the trade climate confusing, Bologna remains a lovely city and 2009 an exciting year in prospect.

One major aspect that arises out of recession is the importance of innovation. As such the Leather Futures Research Group may have been setup at just the right time. Innovative leathers with sound features and benefits, especially with a properly supported environmental story, are what matters now, and will keep the industry from becoming a commodity.

So Sanotan from Incusa and some of the crafted leathers from Borge are among the items to look for. We are working now on the major task of membership of the LFRG and setting out a timetable to have the total concept of the LFRG in place for 2009. Certainly our first research project will have relevance to tanners like Incusa and Borge and their customers, and hopefully many others as well

Michael Redwood

7th November 2008

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