YES, the APLF was smaller this year but the difference was not that great and the false walls and empty spaces of last year had been eradicated. This is still an important exhibition in global terms and the building works at the convention centre actually worked to the advantage of the leather industry. This was because the tanners, chemicals suppliers and machinery manufacturers were all located in halls one and two so it was much easier for the industry to get together.

Hall three, at the top of the centre, was given over to synthetics and components, which is apparently a growing sector. The building work was not overly obtrusive and merely resulted in some of the escalators and walkways through to the older part of the building being blocked off. Traders, the hamburger joint, had vanished but there were still plenty of places to eat.

Leather International spoke to many people and all were planning to return next year. ‘We saw all the people we expected to see’ was a common remark and it is acknowledged by most that no other fair offers such a worldwide venue. If you choose to transfer to ACLE in Shanghai you will find a vibrant and growing fair but your market will be in China. The IILF in India is also growing in importance, but your market will be in India.

APLF offers the chance of finding both suppliers and customers in countries further afield such as Japan, Korea, Thailand and so on. And all under one roof. One stop shopping if you like. No other leather industry fair has quite this global spread.

It is not possible to gauge how much actual business is done at the various shows and many see it as a meeting place rather than a direct sales opportunity. Orders are written but the overall value is unknown.

Referring to the US hide traders, Don Ohsman of says: ‘Anyone from the US contingent who invested in the trip to Hong Kong in the hopes of selling many hides came away sorely disappointed. There were enough bids placed, both in person and on the mobile phones during the fair, but major steer producers were resolute in turning down any buyer efforts below last sales levels. This resulted in fewer hides sold than produced.’

John Reddington of USHSLA, the United States Hide Skin and Leather Association, said that he is often asked why US hide prices continue to be so high when the price of leather is kept down by finished goods manufacturers refusing to pay more. He told delegates at the ICHSLTA (International Council of Hides Skins and Leather Associations) meeting, which preceded the APLF, that the trade is one of supply and demand. If tanners were to unite and refuse to pay more it would force prices down.

The consensus, however, is that tanners will never manage to provide a united front. Even if the bulk stand firm there will always be some who will buy at any price to keep their production going. Supporting this view were David Potter, McConomys, UK, and Mike Parsons, president of the ICT (International Council of Tanners).