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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.” Charles Dickens has got it about right for the leather industry as we head into Easter and the heart of 2018.
Most of the industry has raised its head and is ready to shout about the values and relevance of leather to modern society. In fact, the transformation from a chosen position of silence to an outspoken one in favour of promoting leather has been remarkable, and very welcome.
Coincidentally, this has arisen at a moment when leather is in a spot of bother. In a good number of sectors, sales are down as recent gains made by plastics and textiles are consolidating. Whereas marketing is generally about the longer term, it is current orders that are required. Getting the balance correct between sales and marketing is always hard and it is the reason that marketers often have a hard time when sales are going well, whereas it is in these good times when marketing is needed to help protect the business from the next downturn.
A decade or two ago I had a Chairman who boasted that the company “had overcome the cyclical nature of the leather industry”. He did not last long. The cyclical nature remains but it is always linked with long term trends that can change a market forever. Think of the displacement of horse power and transportation by automobiles, or loss of sole leather to rubber and synthetics. If you are not constantly watchful you are likely to be caught out.
Indeed, that is why it is so important not to forget our product, the leather itself. We know that leather is not merely an archaeological gem, but a vibrant modern material that keeps on giving as we as tanners use modern science to adapt it to ever changing consumer needs.
Dickens was a problem for us in that he disliked industry; perhaps with a little justification in his time, although it has left a lasting impact, but he was right to go on (although I accept it is taken out of context):
“It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us.”
Dr Mike Redwood
March 29, 2017
Follow Dr Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood
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