APLF got off to a brisk start and it continued on the following day of this major event. The Show reflects the overall global market and serves it as a business platform by being an integral part of the leather industry.
Independent reports from specialised media indicated that, “the majority of exhibitors were happy with the numbers of old and new customers passing by," and that “APLF was generally regarded as a success”, according to World Leather’s Leather Pipeline.
Also important was that “as far as visitors are concerned, the quality has generally gone up” and the influential SauerReport summed up the background to APLF 2016 by writing, “The reasons are varied and complex with reduced demand from China and Russia, high retail inventories following mild winters and the ongoing substitution of leather with non-leather materials are all having an impact on the market.”
International Leather Maker (ILM) also reached the same conclusion as reflected in its headline “APLF reflects a mixed leather market” and noted that demand for footwear leather is lagging behind 2014 – a common conclusion at the fair. But then continues with the sharp observation:
“Demand for exotics also remains positive but only reflects low production volumes and a small niche element of the total market. In fact, one high-end exotic leather exhibitor told ILM that they had sold all the samples on their stand on day two to a single buyer. They had to go back to their local warehouse to restock the stand!”
“A number of countries use the APLF exhibition as a major showcase for their latest leather trends as it remains the most international fair in the industry with a truly global mix of buyers and sellers.”
This observation by ILM is mirrored in the APLF statistics as the fair attracted 1,064 exhibitors from 48 countries and regions as well as more than 16,000 professional buyers from 86 countries and regions once again proving the international status of APLF as the Meeting Place for the Global Leather Industry.
Turkey as Focus Country
A mix of sanctions and international tensions over the last two to three years had caused Turkish traditional export markets for leather and leather products to reduce in value. For this reason the presence of Turkey at APLF 2016 as Focus Country was an important strategic decision to open up new markets.
With 70 companies in the country pavilion representing the national Turkish leather sector which consists of over 23,000 companies and employs more than 415,000 people, APLF could not be a better place to be presented.
Turkey’s reach in terms of leather exports covers 195 countries and according to Ruken Mizrakli, Board Member of the Istanbul Leather & Leather Products Exporters Association (IDMIB) and who is instrumental in planning the future export strategy of Turkish leather and leather products, Turkey has turned its marketing and sales efforts to the USA, the Middle East and Europe. The objective is ambitious to increase exports of the sector from US$1.5 billion in 2015 to US$5.2 billion in 2023. China is also an interesting market to explore at this point in time.
According to Ruken Mizrakli when speaking about the Turkish pavilion’s experience at APLF she noted, “The fair is active and we have seen many customers from the sector but we expect the market to improve in 2017”.
Topics that point to the Future
Besides being a business platform that serves the global leather industry by being an integral part of it, APLF is a venue where conferences, seminars and interviews take place that not just are hot topics of the moment but also are signposts to the way the industry is heading in the future.
This was evident during APLF 2016 in the case of the demands being made of global brands so that they comply with sustainability and environmental requirements; the origin of the leather used can be traced right back to the herd from which it was sourced and the use and management of chemicals that do not appear on lists of toxic substances such as that of REACH.
Such topics were discussed at the Global Leather Coordinating Committee Meeting (GLCC) that took place on 1 April on the last day of APLF 2016 in Hong Kong. The GLCC usually holds one of its biannual meetings in Hong Kong and this Committee consists of representatives from the International Council of Hide, Skins and Leather Traders Associations (ICHSLTA), the International Council of Tanners (ICT) and the International Union of Leather Technologists and Chemists Societies (IULTCS).
During the meeting the demands of the global brands from leather manufacturers were discussed under the general headings of transparency, traceability, environmental standards, chemical management, corporate social responsibility, and animal welfare.
At the Sustainability in the Leather Supply Chain’ Conference organised by APLF and BLC, similar topics were discussed indicating their importance for the industry as a whole. The first session of the conference dealt with chemical management and the second on traceability.
Presentations by two representatives from Germany – one from chemical giant TFL and the other from the President of the IULTCS were aimed at highlighting the technology and chemicals available to leather makers so that brands and retailers present at the conference might better understand and appreciate the demands made on brands in terms of modern leather making. Dr Tegtmeyer of IULTCS made a point of explaining how traces of chromium VI are eliminated in modern leather making which is a major concern of brands using leather in their manufacturing processes.
In the traceability presentations present was marketing manager of JBS Couros, Fernando Bellese, who is also closely involved in JBS’ sustainability programmes. He explained in detail how Brazilian hides can be traced back to the herd from where they were sourced in, For example, the Amazon, so that major buyers could be assured that the cattle were not being raised on land that had been illegally deforested thus prejudicing the delicate rainforest environment.
Even before these topics were brought up for discussion on the world stage at APLF, the Organisers had already covered these subjects by inviting renowned an entrepreneur of advanced services on sustainability and innovation, Federico Brugnoli, to join the newly relaunched APLF.com as a blogger. In his first blog Federico covers precisely the same topics that are being demanded of brands in terms of management of the supply chain and the factors that are influencing the choices of brands in the selection of their leather suppliers.
Brazil again at the forefront during APLF
With support from the Centre for the Brazilian Tanning Industry (CICB) and the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (APEX-Brasil), at this year’s event there were 38 Brazilian participants displaying a wide range of leathers and supported by two displays based around the use of leather that leads to inspiration and design.
The first one was the “Escritas” edition of the Design na Pelle (Leather in Design) display in which there were ten tanneries participating with original designs. The challenge of Design na Pelle is to transform leather into beautiful and unusual articles demonstrating the versatility of the natural material and setting a high bar for designers to overcome in their creativity.
The Design na Pelle project is curated by two of Brazil’s most renowned designers - Heloísa Crocco and Ronaldo Fraga.
The Inspiramais display was brought over from Brazil from the design event of the same name and also allowed Brazilian flair in design to be viewed during the 2016 APLF event.
Brazilian tanning received another boost during the Awards at the Gala Dinner for the 2016 Tannery of the Year organised by World leather with APLF as Marketing Partner. The Winner for the Americas and the overall Global Winner was Couro do Norte from Brazil once again demonstrating this country’s leading position in the global tanning industry.
This unique space at APLF for seminars and discussions did not fail to elicit feedback from all participants as the topics covered were of great interest.
PrimeAsia covered the concept of the Tannery of the Future and this tannery’s CEO, Jon Clark expressed his concerns about tanners entering onto the “at once time frame” where consumers demand instant solutions to their needs. This is a challenge for the leather industry and will mean the disappearance of what Clark called “safety nets” such as inventories as tanning leather is part of a longer supply chain. To satisfy this “at once” concept it will be necessary to develop a more seamless supply as well as more trust and transparency between suppliers and customers within the supply chain itself.
Another speaker of Leather Forum Egbert Dikkers of Dutch chemical company, Smit & Zoon, is dealing with a topic very important for this company – Corporate Social Responsibility. Dikkers explained that Corporate Social responsibility is aimed to be achieved by 2025 by taking a catalysing role in making the leather supply chain fully sustainable. The objectives are to improve sustainability in the carbon footprint of the leather industry on water, land and in terms of health and safety. In the latter case, Dikkers explained that health and safety are paramount not only for their own workers but also for other people working within the value chain of leather making and so such safety measures must be communicated efficiently. Water reduction and cleansing in leather making as well as disposal of waste for tanneries is also important so as to reduce the environmental footprint of leather making on water and land.
CTC Groupe Sales Director for Greater China, André Leroy explained the role of the two organisation in which he is closely involved – the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) and Global Apparel, Footwear & Textile Initiative (GAFTI). Mr. Leroy highlighted why these two organisations exist in terms of sustainability and how they are not related directly to government or local authorities as they offer self-regulation to the industries to which they are related.
Mike Redwood – spokesperson for the LeatherNaturally! also gave some updates on the latest developments in this campaign, which will be aimed more at educating the consumer about the benefits and sustainability of leather in the face of dishonest marketing by certain NGO’s and how LeatherNaturally! will go on the offensive in the coming months with this instructional objective in mind.
What Buyers said...
“MM&T is fantastic and the product range is diversified. I can find raw materials for my design. I think that the best product is leather for shoes from Egypt and Turkey.”
- M. Perumal, Excel Global Link, India
“MM&T is big and everything is under one roof. I can meet new contacts for footwear industry from Korea and China.”
- M. Shakeel Ahmed, Aysha Sabeel Leathers , India
“MM&T is distinctive from other fairs that it gathers industry people from all around the world.”
- Wasin Thumrongsakunvong, Interhides Public Co. Ltd, Thailand
“I can find all materials for producing my handbags such as cow leather and metals rings at MM&T.”
- Ashish Bhatt, Orion Conmerx (P) LTD, India
What Exhibitors said...
“We are very excited to be here at APLF on this global business platform so that we can be in contact with international buyers. This is the first step for our industry in Zimbabwe to be able to export and it will not be the last time that we will come here.
We have been approached by potential investors and companies keen to pre-finance some projects and to provide technical assistance, mostly from mainland China but also from Japan, South Korea and even Italy. Ironically, we have also met interested partners from South Africa! We were so busy that we did not even have a chance to sit down.”
- Clement Shoko, Chairman, Zimbabwe Leather Development Council, Zimbabwe
“The leather market suffered in 2015 and has started to recuperate due to price rises in all places. This has encouraged us to participate at MM&T once again as the main exporter of wet blue from Paraguay.”
- Ferdinand Kehler , Director, Cencoprod, Paraguay
“Our colour designers get their inspiration from Italy and Spain. The fairs in Hong Kong and Shanghai are key elements in our sales and marketing plan in Asia. We have been exhibiting at MM&T for six years and at ACLE for seven. China is picking up now after two quiet months at the beginning of the year and after the Chinese Lunar New Year.”
- José Luis Torres, General Manager, Leather Quimica, Spain
|“We sell footwear and automotive leather and MM&T allows us to find clients here from all over the world easily. We are now trying to build a regular customer base in Asia.”
- Jozef Cehlár, Garbarnia Szczakow, Poland
|“The fair has been amazing so far in this first morning with a nice turnout of visitors and has been surprisingly busy. We are selling our leathers to China, South Korea, Japan, as well as to the USA and Germany. We also visit our clients at Fashion Access who produce garments and gloves, which is an advantage of having two fairs at one place.”
- Brook Debebe, General Manager, Ethio-Leather Industry PLC, Ethiopia
|“The fair is much better than I had expected it would be.”
- Diego Ricaurte, Sales Manager, Ecocaiman, Colombia
|“We have a good market in Europe and the USA and are in the process of establishing ourselves in the Asian market which takes time. We have received high quality visitors from Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong and some US manufacturers. This is why we come to MM&T as it is the gateway to the Asian market.”
- Novo Kaeru, Massimiliano Mennonna, Brazil
|“The fair is a platform where you can come and learn and so pass this on to our members so that they become more competitive and efficient. Leather is Bangladesh’s second most important sector for exports so we need to improve. I will attend the Sustainability Conference tomorrow. Gaining this knowledge is part of helping Bangladesh to increase its export performance so as to have more foreign earnings for the country. Our visit here is related to that.”
- Mustain Billah, Manager, Leather & Footwear Manufacturers & Exporters Association of Bangladesh (LFMEAB), Bangladesh
|“The fair is active and we have seen many customers from the sector. We expect the market to improve in 2017.”
- Ruken Mizrakli, Board Member of the Istanbul Leather & Leather Products Exporters Association (IDMIB), Turkey
|“I have done some business here in the last day despite the slowness of the market and the quality of the visitors has been good.”
- Carlos Mario Suecsun, Director, Interpelli, Colombia
|“We have got a good location and received many positive results from MM&T that we never expect.”
- Diego Gieco, Director, Hispano (Corium Limited), Hong Kong
|“We are the second generation for tannery, we trust that joining exhibitions is one of the important ways to develop markets for wet blues from Saudi Arabia.This is our first experience in MM&T and we got a lot of rewards from the fair that we will definitely come again in 2017.”
- Emin Atik, GM, Atik Tannery, Saudi Arabia
|“We were happy with the number of visitors and met with new buyers from India.”
- Carel Herhold, Export Manager, Ostrich Products South Africa Pty Ltd, South Africa
|“I confirm that the show has been important for us. We met many visitors on the first and second day. The buyers were mainly from the leathergoods sector. Most came from China and then from Korea, Thailand and India. About the overall services: our opinion is positive.”
- Paola Bezze, Priante Srl, Italy