Aiming at boosting trade opportunities for both exhibitors and buyers, Alibaba B2B and UBM have formed a strategic alliance to unite the online and offline trade buying experience. Initially focused in Asia, the alliance will explore opportunities to link the B2B online and face-to-face trading worlds by leveraging their combined strengths, technologies and relationships.

The Materials Manufacturing & Technology Fair (MM&T) and Fashion Access are part of UBM and APLF Ltd will be managing the collaboration with Alibaba B2B. APLF is a joint venture between UBM Asia Ltd and SIC Group; UBM Asia is one of the world’s largest and most dynamic trade show organisers, and France based SIC Group has been organising professional leather trade events since 1926.

UBM’s Partnership with Alibaba will allow exhibitors in China and Hong Kong of Fashion Access and MM&T to join the Trade Assurance (TA) programme, a buyer protection service provided by Alibaba in case there is any dispute between suppliers and buyers, before the event as well as onsite. Orders will be rapidly processed during the fairs.

Exhibitors will have a TA logo displayed on their and Alibaba showrooms and benefit from an onsite matching service. Buyers will be given an Inspection Coupon and a Personal Assistant will accompany them to meet the exhibitors at their booths.

According to APLF, the synergy created by the alliance will ensure that exhibitors can gain trust from buyers, receive wider exposure and more sales opportunities online before the fair and as well as onsite. At the same time, buyers can be reassured that they are protected from any late shipment, quality or payment issues when dealing with suppliers thanks to the Alibaba TA scheme.

As the 32nd edition of MM&T in Hong Kong approaches at the end of March, the exhibitors will certainly welcome the initiative positively. Providing a general outlook in the business horizon, APLF has reported that since the April 2015 edition of Materials, Manufacturing and Technology (MM&T) ended, the demand for leather on all levels and its price has slid from around US$100 to a July low of just over US$60 which equals a 40% price decline.

The show organisers put forward the fact that prices were in the stratosphere in mid September 2014 and that, as a result, leather succeeded in pricing itself out of the market as well as the manufacturers’ demand portfolio, with the exception of the booming automotive sector. The slowdown was reflected at MM&T 2015 but the prices had not hit the steepest part of the slippery slope then, knocking confidence out of the sector. Cheaper synthetics invaded the price-sensitive footwear segment on the back of plunging oil prices hence enabling these petrochemical, non-biodegradable and environmentally unfriendly leather substitutes to grab market share from leather which has not yet been recovered.

With prices for all grades, except the top-end, being much lower than one year ago, the trade show expects buyers to be largely present at the upcoming MM&T. For the 2016 event countries such as Brazil, Italy and Spain have increased their group pavilion sizes by as much as 25% and the 2016 Focus Country will be Turkey, showcasing its signature project Meet the Turkish Effect.