Changes to the way trade fairs present themselves is not new and has been evolving for some time. But like all other industrial sectors, this industry is not immune from change and today leather finds itself a component material within larger exhibitions that are broken down into smaller material based segments, which often compete directly with each other for market share.

Today, we have to accept that a trade show solely based around a single material is a non-starter. Leather is a component material for finished products and it is often used in conjunction with a wide range of synthetics, textiles, fabrics, rubbers, accessories and components.

To attract buyers and make their lives as easy as possible, and make the effort to attend events worthwhile, fair organisers now provide a one-stop-shop where a whole host of material options can be viewed under one roof. A footwear, garment, or handbag maker wants to see all the materials they use, not just leather in isolation.

If we take a step back and look at all the major “leather” fairs in our industry today, they all now include platforms for leather-competing materials as well as accessories that complement leather.

Over the past few years we have seen Premiere Vision Paris (PVP) acquire what was a specific leather show Le Cuir A Paris, now Premiere Vision Leather, into its mix of materials exhibitions within a larger trade fair. There has also been the expansion of the APLF, ACLE and Lineapelle, all traditionally known as “leather” fairs, more into synthetics and other non-leather materials. It’s a move that makes sense. That’s what the buyer wants and tanners need to compete for business.

With this in mind, this coming March we will see the newly rebranded APLF Leather and Materials+ fair taking place in Hong Kong with a deliberate attempt to grow the fair by attracting exhibitors from other segments outside the leather industry. It’s a logical step. The “L” for Leather in APLF is now synonymous for all materials, hence Materials+, and the letters APLF themselves are now just a brand name for a materials fair, albeit with leather as a major component still today.

Side events and industry gatherings

As well as the morphing of leather industry trade shows into general “materials and components” exhibitions, the advancement of the internet and online trading has also threatened footfall at tradeshows. To counter this, organisers are constantly on the lookout for innovative and interesting events to bolt-on to fairs to offer buyers, traders, designers and stylists several reasons to attend.

All the major fairs such as Lineapelle, APLF, PVP and ACLE are now hosts to a wide range of direct and indirect industry related side events that add value to a visit. Attend the show and meet suppliers, look for new ones and then learn about the latest industry trends in a side seminar, forum, visit the colours and trends gallery, new product launches, attend an awards ceremony or a cocktail reception. It all enriches the visitor experience and makes the trip worthwhile.

In an industry such as leather, this is a concept that works well as it is a relatively small industry and is very international. As leather is a natural, tactile and haptic material it has to be seen or touched. It is much better to see it live rather than on a screen.

I happen to believe that the global leather supply chain is “people orientated” and the best way to do business and make money in the leather industry is to get out there, meet people and develop personal relationships. And that’s maybe the key to the success of an evolving trade show today. A meeting point to do business, learn new things. Attend events and meet interesting people from around the world to highlight the benefits of leather as a natural and sustainable material.  

Leather has to compete with other materials side-by-side. It is a challenge, but one that can be conquered.

Martin Ricker

Content Director, ILM.