An editorial in the Economist asks "is 2016 over yet?" A year in which the famous Oxford Dictionaries named "post-truth" as its word for 2016 is clearly one we should want to forget. It is also one in which the leather industry finally realised that hides and skins are not like fine wines, a material whose value can rise with scarcity. Instead, it is a component whose qualities of performance and beauty need stating over and over again via advancing technology and strong investments in proper marketing (not just noisy advertising).
It is a time of increasing material scarcity, but as with oil this can be counterintuitive. It would appear it is not peak oil production that has become the driver but peak consumption. For many reasons, some rational and some less so, societies around the world have found ways to reduce consumption or use alternates. With leather, we face the same consumer atmosphere if we drive leather prices beyond what the consumer sees as worth the money; and that value is never static as new alternate materials arise that can compete perfectly in particular circumstances or in general usage. Complacency drives us to a low-price commodity.
I write this in northern Finland where the current temperature is -25oC. The traditional people survived this freezing climate perfectly well for thousands of years with reindeer boots, clothing and gloves, and I am using an excellent pair of elk gloves very kindly given to me by a local glover. Yet, the vast majority of folk are in cold weather gear from head to foot designed for -40oC without an iota of leather to be seen. Evidence, if ever it was needed, that apparently impregnable markets can soon crash about you. Vigilance and adaptability are vital, which means advanced technology and marketing. Oh, and forget the wine, a good single malt in front of a log fire is preferable at these temperatures.
14th December 2016
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