Behind the numbers

Redwood Comment
Published:  05 July, 2016
Mike Redwood

These days the leather industry cannot be without meetings, conferences and seminars. They were once few and far between, even noted by some U.S. tanners who used them to make up for incredibly poor holiday entitlements. So many events means lots of opportunity to voice opinions, which you would think must be a good thing. Except that these days most of our industry opinions have to be just that, opinions, since the statistical evidence to support them no longer exists.

Leather being just a component in many products from automobiles to footwear makes getting a clear handle on the production and trade of leather by end use very hard. What is more, with hides and skins being traded in pickle, wet-blue and crust, being split and segmented into a wide variety of pieces keeping up with the statistics for an industry that is truly to be found in every country is always going to be difficult. However, when I went to my first International Council of Tanners meeting  in Argentina in the 1970s, we were all presented with a pack of data covering each and every country. In those days the ICT was a big organisation so, while not always consistent or perfectly accurate, that data allowed those interested to build a reasonable picture of what was happening and what trends were emerging. Until the membership and attendance dropped precipitously, I always tried to get to those meetings.

Yet, it is clear that over the last 25 years the amount and quality of meaningful data available to marketers has dropped away dramatically, and does not really support the volume of "interpretation" going on. Despite this being a world of "big data" we lack the information required to make proper judgments.

So getting some actual numbers from the Italian industry last month was a revelation, on top of which they used social media to share them so all could have access. The French industry has also started to publish some useful data, albeit less complete than that from Italy.

You might say that countries such as China and India provide comprehensive statistics month by month, but that word "comprehensive" spells the danger. The breakdown is so complex, the units so varied that using them for much more than year on year comparisons becomes difficult.

If you want to get behind the numbers, first you need the numbers. Regular, consistent and reliable numbers in understandable units. Thank you, Italy: thank you UNIC.

Mike Redwood

5th July 2016

mike@internationalleathermaker.com

Follow Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood

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