This had little to do with the venue or the event itself but more to do with a leather market suffering from an oversupply of raw material accompanied by flagging demand for leather, uppers for footwear and the dominance of synthetic sneakers in store sales and hip fashion magazines.
Nevertheless, in less than one hour after APLF opened its doors at 0930am on 14 March, pessimism and uncertainty were soon dispelled and forgotten as droves of buyers entered the main tannery hall looking for……………leather on the stands of their regular suppliers as well as prospecting new contacts.
Opportunities and Quality Buyers
The fair was very busy on the first two days with a “buzz” that had transformed uncertainty into hope and pessimism into optimism as lines formed outside some stands and other exhibitors were obliged to use their stand personnel to filter serious contacts from curious bargain hunters.
As Elton Haubert, Export Manager for Curtume Courovale from the rebranded Brazilian pavilion remarked: “APLF 2018 was a positive surprise in terms of the number of visitors and business opportunities”.
“Opportunities” is the key word in Mr Haubert’s observation as there was not much evidence of massive amounts of business being concluded on-site but rather latent demand lurking just below the asking prices of many tanners.
As Ignacio Rombalski, International Sales Manager of COTO CICSA from Buenos Aires Argentina noted: "The fair has been quite busy and it seems that quality prevailed above quantity this year. Hopefully we will accomplish good results in the coming weeks after reviewing all opportunities with customers."
Canny buyers were looking to improve their manufacturing margins for the upcoming Fall/Winter collections and make the most of the hundreds of thousands of square feet of material required to satisfy demand for the upbeat upholstery and automotive sectors.
As a business platform APLF brought buyers and sellers together to do business under one roof as is its primary role but at the same time it also lived up to its reputation of being the “Annual Meeting Place for the Global Leather Industry”.
In addition to the main leather exhibition on Level 1 of the exhibition centre, the recently relaunched components and accessories section for the manufacture of footwear, leathergoods and garments enjoyed a second year of activity on Level 3.
“We have been approached by several brands and bag manufacturers who have complimented us and given us valuable advice. For a newly founded company like ours, these kinds of encouragements coming from professionals are priceless.” Said Alma Law, Co-founder of Frederico Vignato.
The combination of APLF Leather & Materials+ covering the manufacturing supply chain was complemented by the positive business-like atmosphere at the 2018 event. This augurs well for the future as materials are brought together by designers that need such events to source materials and receive inspiration from the many exhibitors displaying their products - all under one roof during three intensive days in Hong Kong.
On Site Meetings and Conferences
Over the last decade and a half APLF has become more than just a trade fair and is now an integrated event serving the global leather industry on more than just a commercial level.
First of all, international and national association allied to the global leather sector meet in Hong Kong as all the key players and delegates of these organizations are present at the fair.
• The Global Leather Coordinating Committee (GLCC) held its biannual meeting;
• The International Council of Tanners (ICT) elected its new President for a two year tenure;
• The Leather Naturally! campaign held an important meeting laying out its strategy for the coming year that was extremely well attended;
• The International Council of Hides Skins & Leather Traders Associations (ICHSLTA) held a cocktail and decided that they wish to see a “free flow of hides” in world trade;
• The international Union of Leather Technicians & Chemists Societies (IULTCS) was also present promoting its next event in Dresden
• The International Union of Footwear Technicians (UITIC) also took advantage of APLF to promote its upcoming conference in Porto in May.
• The Leather Working Group (LWG) which is instrumental in certifying tanneries as sustainable and environmentally friendly also holds its meetings during APLF.
Highlights at the Fair
During the APLF Press Conference held on Day 1 of the fair on 14 March, there was a special announcement and a scoop for the international media attending the conference from two of the world’s leading tanning nations – Italy and Brazil.
Both countries signed a partnership agreement that gives mutual recognition to sustainability certification programmes run in each country.
The agreement was signed in Hong Kong on 13 March by ICEC (the Italian quality certification institute for the leather sector) and by CSCB (the Brazilian Leather Certification of Sustainability). The agreement was signed with the full backing of their respective national tanning industry associations, UNIC for Italy and CICB for Brazil.
This list of meetings conclusively illustrates the importance of APLF and, in addition, there were two key conferences held during the fair and a Gala Dinner.
APLF together with the Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America (FDRA) organised the 4th edition of the Global Footwear Retail Conference (GFRC) - a half day event aimed at highlighting the latest developments in the global footwear sector.
The BLC and APLF put on the now annual Sustainability in the Leather Supply Chain Conference that was sponsored by some of the most influential names of the leather industry and which has proven to be a forum for airing and discussing new ideas and technical developments concerning sustainability that is a central issue for the global industry.
This year the Gala Dinner for the Sixth Tannery of the Year Awards was held during APLF. This event has become one of the most important events on the calendar of the leather industry as it serves to highlight the best in leather making, sustainability, compliance and social commitment of a tannery to its surrounding community.
The 2018 winner of this prestigious award was Interhides Public Company Limited (IHL) from Thailand. This tannery was built up from being a small operator in the Bangpoomai tanning cluster, to being a company capable of processing 4,000 hides and 20,000 pigskins per day by the current management’s parents.
The next edition of APLF Leather & Materials+ will take place at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre from 13 – 15 March 2019. Visit www.leatherfair.aplf.com
to know more about the fair.