I see it more as the latter, but have always recognised, especially so in the last twelve months, that different people can construe a set of facts quite differently. That the same facts can be used to develop quite opposing narratives is quite off putting, and might serve to explain why the industry has been so unbelievably slow to accept marketing as a marginally useful tool of management.

There is another way to look at this. Everyone in the industry earns their income only because the final consumers find enough value in the products they purchase to pay a fair price. So, if in doubt about the marketplace, the best place to start researching is with the consumers.

A look around Milan was not reassuring. Leather coats were most noticeable by their almost total absence; a huge surprise in a country like Italy where wearing a leather coat or jacket was once a ‘given’ in winter (and other times of year). Footwear was not that much better, given Italy’s fame for high quality fashion shoes. Certainly, among the young, the sneaker seems to have taken charge. A few at the upper end are leather, but not many on the morning commute, or walking the floor of Lineapelle or Simac Tanning Tech.

The leather goods industry remains reasonably solid, as does automotive but there is certainly a view that modern electric vehicles are being lost to plastic seat covers; an incomprehensibly foolish switch pretending to have environmental credentials.

Unhappy picture

This does not add up to a happy picture and makes the leather trade’s journey to APLF next week ever more important. Year by year, the train in from Hong Kong airport has become more depressing as the leather footwear count declines, but spirits recover as the world of luxury stores opens up downtown. For this event, more important than either will be the discussion on the floor of the Convention and Exhibition Centre.

What one hopes delegates will remember is that downturns like this (however you interpret it) have no quick fix. A promotional and educational campaign will take some years to make its mark. And it will fail if we cannot ensure our leather is technically and aesthetically suited to a rapidly advancing consumer environment.

Dr Mike Redwood

March 4, 2019


Follow Dr Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood

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