Back from Bologna

Jeffry Guthrie-Strachan at Lineapelle
Jeffry Guthrie-Strachan at Lineapelle

A week after Bologna everyone is home now trying to digest what is going on in this complicated leather world. Most tanners are still quite busy but retail appears to be quieter around the world. Raw material is too high by a long way but a precipitous fall would create losses as customers renegotiate prices despite the tannery having already bought stock to cover their orders.

So like the rest of the world the leather universe waits to see what will come out of all the current macroeconomic issues running through our lives these days. We had a surprisingly good time in the recent recession and there is hope that demand from China, which helped so much over the last few years, will keep us from evil over the next few.  Bologna certainly started to indicate that this might be a false hope – China would also like a soft landing – and is trying to slow the growth in house prices and consumer consumption. Some smaller shoemakers from Wenzhou are disappearing as a result of China stopping the private loan system that has been so efficient in helping SME’s grow in the past. If you follow my Twiiter comments you will know there have even be suicides in this exciting city which is now so important in the world of leather.

Nevertheless in Bologna the mood was in no way pessimistic, rather it was cautious. And there was still time to get to the Corium Club reunion which is held early evening just as the show ends for the day. The Bologna reunion is good as quite a few students can get there from both Leather and Fashion. So the event was a better mixing moment than Hong Kong and perhaps in the future we can incorporate a small “job fair” element for a handful of students. A good place to get some advice from industry leaders and chat with people we do not get too many chances to meet. Even Dr Jeffry GS got into the Italian spirit with his cultured designer stubble.

What a better statement for our industry to make than that we will help students with the high costs of fees and accommodation at University and to find a career afterwards.  We are not there yet but our current situation is not far off.

Lineapelle itself tried to move out into the streets with a number of events to bring leather into the streets.  A good idea but from a marketing perspective it demonstrated the product orientation which has always been a problem for marketers in the leather industry. We love our product so much that we fail to try and understand what our ultimate customers actually know or think about it. As a result the materials put up in the city included long texts about the use of chrome tanning and a colour card with dark colours on a black background.  No consumer had the slightest chance of working out what dark greens or browns they should be looking out for. We overheard a couple of shoppers just look and laugh. So many people misunderstand the importance of proper marketing in our industry.

Mike Redwood
27th October 2011

12 Replies to “Back from Bologna”

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