It was snowing, according to APLF Director Michael Duck, twenty two years ago when the All China Leather Exhibition started and the damp, grey weather was even more dismal this morning: only to be perfectly matched by the first report by Mr. Chen Zhanguang, Secretary General of China Leather Industry Association to be almost totally loaded with shrinking rather than expanding numbers.
If 2018 was a challenging year 2019 has so far been much worse. High demand for beef has pushed hides onto the market when demand for leather is weakest. There were a few complaints about how quiet it was at the opening hour, but it was just as well as many stands were not complete or unmanned. By mid morning the rain had gone and the crowds had arrived; the stands were busy. In fact, initial figures suggested attendance a little ahead of last year.
The chemical companies had busy stands, as always, but it seemed to be interest in new products rather than refreshments that was pulling people in; a welcome sign. Nevertheless, the talk was clear that some changes were not reversible. Footwear segments lost to alternative materials are not going to return without a battle; in that innovation is vital. All tanners appear to have grasped that communications and transparency have to improve and certainly the Leather Naturally Zone was busy during its seminars and discourses. A few tanners have even used this fair to rethink how they immerse customers in their leathers and business and there are some varied displays.
We were promised three intense days of business and conversations and this appears likely. It may have been a difficult start to the year but as Michael Duck told the opening Press Conference “we are all optimists here”.