It’s Sunday and I’m in Shanghai. It used to be that whenever you went to a leather show you would start meeting people you knew at the departure gate, or later when lounges became common in the airline lounge. But times have changed. Our industry has restructured and large segments have relocated. In some areas we have seen fragmentation with tanners becoming merchants, teachers, consultants, journalists and buyers. All staying in the industry but travelling in different ways at different times to meet new cost pressures and types of workload. In other areas we see consolidation with the top 200 tanneries making a huge proportion of the world’s leather. A look at the membership of the Leather Working Group and a rough calculation of their volumes makes the point.
So this week ACLE in Shanghai will be busy, but I didn’t fly out sitting next to a tanner but a shop fitter from Birmingham. Not just any shop fitter though; one that employs nearly 500 people doing up the inside of big stores like Marks and Spencer’s and Tesco. One who is being asked by them to help overseas, in places like China. And of course shop fitter is a dreadful term for me to use for what is now a very sophisticated business of design and creativity. Like the leather industry retail changes are immense right now as the High Street meets the Internet. Retail is as strong as ever but it is being bundled differently to better help the consumer, so shops have to change, become more of a destination, an entertainment. Getting to that thinking is important for us all, and if you go through the Leather Degree process at Northampton remember that while you are being taught how to get your hands dirty and do things you are also being taught how to stand back and think about things.
It is just because everyone is thinking about how to do things much more carefully that everyone is arriving in Shanghai at different times from what now is a very diverse list of global locations.
And then CUIR A PARIS
This was not the case when the major autumn leather show was in Paris and the entire world leather industry paraded itself at the Porte de Versailles. This show slid to a rather sad end although the changing locations of manufacturing had made its eventual decline inevitable. Today we have a new, smaller, show in Paris – CUIR A PARIS. While Shanghai is the show for China, APLF is the global event CUIR A PARIS is just what Europe needs: a narrow sectoral show that plays to the high quality and craftsmanship for which Europe is famous. Paris is the home of the designers that define luxury through leathergoods – perhaps the most consistently profitable luxury sector. It is just the perfect spot to bring together for a few days Europe’s really top tanners with the designers and their brands. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to go there again this year.
So within three weeks we have two leather industry trade fairs that are finely targeted, understand their market segments and know precisely how to position themselves. A lesson there for the tanners perhaps.
1st September 2013
PS if you are gong to Shanghai find Rachel Garwood and I via World Leather’s Stand (World Trades Publishing) Hall E2 Stand B06a/PR. If you are going to Paris email me in advance and you will easily find me walking around.