It has got a lot of people very excited as just a decade ago China looked unstoppable and the implication was of billions of Chinese making everything for everybody in the world. And in a huge number of sectors China quickly moved to making well over 60% leaving the market shares of other countries, both the historic producing ones and other developing ones wanting a look in, languishing down in single figures.

At Cuir a Paris figures were released that showed the on-shoring move is really happening. Looking at the figures for 2011 both France and Italy each grew their share of the world leather market by 2%. This raises Italy to 11% and France to 4% of a world market valued at €136 million. India and China were the losers.

I’ve always struggled to get access to good data and I have not found the source of these numbers, but I certainly think that they correctly demonstrate that the leather industry is part of this trend.

We first heard seriously about on-shoring with companies like Caterpillar and General Electric talking about bringing some production back to the USA. Robots and production automation are central in these conversations and it is very clear that modern manufacture in almost every sphere employs remarkably few people compared to the past.

Yet, what is fascinating is that a huge determining factor for the leather industry is not automation but craftsmanship. The traditional craftsmanship that makes wonderful products that consumers love to own, to use and to cherish.

So what we are seeing at the moment is a convergence of many interesting current trends. Frugal purchasing and the concept of small indulgences is leading some consumer segments to buy less but to seek out quality. In many areas traditional designs allied to true craftsmanship are very fashionable, frequently linked to a retro element but also often with a contemporary twist.

Finally, with the market for luxury growing steadily worldwide authenticity counts, and authenticity in leather has a long history of being linked to location.

Mike Redwood