It is clear that the leather industry is splitting into streams; those who have understood this for some time, those who are starting to comprehend it and those who never will. The leather industry is not about to go out of business; it is certainly down in volume terms, but most sectors look like levelling and even recovering somewhat despite the weak global economic forecast. Consolidation seems inevitable.

So to prosper we need to keep investing in new equipment, layouts, products and processes and of course that sort of strategic marketing that keeps us properly in touch with markets so that the expenditure is relevant to a changing world.

What is clear is that making yesterday’s leathers by yesterday’s methods will lead to closure for all but a very few specialists. The top luxury segment is for a tiny group. For all the rest, innovation and sustainability are key to prosperity, along with high levels of efficiency to keep pricing equated with value for money.

Cost Per Wear is vital for leather
Cost Per Wear (CPW) is increasingly relevant as our relationship with goods starts to change. It fits with leather in every sector, so ‘use’ rather than ‘wear’ is what it is really all about. Define it as the value of an item being directly related to how much you use it. We need to emphasise how long leather items last. When you think about it, leather belts, wallets, bags, saddles, tablet covers, jackets, seating and shoes all last for a long time. We need to persuade consumers they are worth taking care of (knowing that leather maintenance is usually minimal with a huge feel good aspect) and persuade designers to make them so repair is possible.

In Shanghai one could worry about the depressing geopolitical changes that have already permanently changed supply chain structures, Chinese attitudes and future trading lines forever. But a good look around the All China Leather Show was more about the future positives than the future negatives. It is about promoting what is good about leather – and there is a lot – rather than complaining about the competition and life in general.

Instead, make innovative, relevant leathers responsibly and tell a good story.

Mike Redwood
September 11, 2019

Follow Dr Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood

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