From past to present in one easy move

Sadly I will miss another SLTC Council Meeting in Northampton on Wednesday as after my accident and back operation I am still strictly limited in how much I can travel and how many hours I am allowed on my feet. Hopefully back in full action soon.

Tuscan Tanners design with leather
Tuscan Tanners design with leather

I did make one quick trip to Northampton last week with special permission from the surgeon – who ever imagined you would be submitting your travel plan to a surgeon and seeking approval of all the dates in your diary – in order to meet with a US shoe maker. It was exciting to be able to show them the changes in the last year in the BSLT tannery and to discuss the further refurbishment planned. Even some of the staff who have been with us longest are finding it hard to credit after some 30 years of, well, zero. But now there is certainly a buzz about the place when you go in and a credible dynamic which makes each trip more enjoyable. So if you are in the area do make a point to visit and of course as the centenary continues the July weekend would make a good occasion to stop by. The new staff all appear well integrated and adding to the development very positively. A few years ago it would be very hard to describe the BSLT as either “exciting” or “dynamic”. “Venerable” and “traditional” would have been the best you could have gone to.

Back to business in Bologna

Open spaces in the Trend section
Open spaces in the Trend section

Lineapelle was good but certainly could not be called “exciting” or “dynamic”, and it is not quite old enough to be venerable or traditional either. I understand it was very quiet on the first and last days and at its busiest during the four hours of the middle day that I was allowed on my feet. Even then it was quieter than I ever remember as the photo shows. Travel budgets are being curtailed so no time is being wasted, albeit this means a lot of slack time for exhibitors. Nevertheless all the main brands and buyers were there, including what we might call the BSLT mafia from Coach, and most of the major tanners had a lot of traffic.

After APLF in Hong Kong it was the Chinese tanners who were happiest as the orders for footwear came in but now the Indian tanners have started to see their orders arrive. Footwear and leathergoods are the strong sectors now and even some of the Europeans are doing OK. Everyone is 20% down and you can always find misery just below the surface but generally things have stabilised with a few positive elements here and there.

Getting serious about #BrandLeather

Key now is for the industry to retain the integrity of #BrandLeather and not let the consumer get confused by false representation or poor value for money. Leather has a real chance to increase its market share while prices are low and no reason to play games with quality or the value of Brand Leather. And if you think Brand Leather does not need defending in all its aspects just read this:

Driving Hell for Leather by James May (20 Apr 2009)

So where is the ICT or the UKLF or COTANCE fighting for the integrity of our product? Someone will have to start doing it. In just the last few months leather has been blamed for everything from toxic furniture to methane producing climate changing cows, quite forgetting synthetic producers whose marketing claims skirt on the illegal and tanners who still make leather like plastic instead of the fine product it should be. Some mention was made of this at APLF in Hong Kong and let us hope it is followed up.


26th September 2009, SLTC Conference, Redwood Hotel, Bristol

Mike Redwood

28 April 2009

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