The current manager of the Tanneries Haas is J C Muller who represents the 6th generation of the Haas family. Today Haas is one of the leading calf tanneries in France.

Its customers are among the leading players in the leather goods and shoe industry. Haas leathers are dedicated to leathergoods manufacturers (handbags, travel bags, small leathergoods) and shoe, garment and saddlery manufacturers.

Tanneries Haas has a "human" size. In 2011 it produced 360,000 m2 of leather with a total of 95 people. The company combines ancestral know-how and craftsmanship with the production and organisation of a modern enterprise, fitted for the future and respectful of the environment.

LEATHER International: When did you start work in the luxury sector and how have you seen the industry develop?

J C Muller: Haas started to work with the luxury sector back in the early seventies. At that time, the sector wasn’t as big or as powerful as it is today. The brand names already existed but they were small units producing small quantities. Over time the luxury market steadily grew up. We followed the evolution by tracking each brand name specification and adapting our organisation to that purpose. We also tried to stick to the fashion codes of the time (following collections, working with studios and maintaining accuracy with colours) because the luxury market is closely linked to the fashion market.

For us, a luxury leather is not just a leather put on a luxury bag and sold at an expensive price. We see luxury leather as all about rarity – a combination of a top selection of skins, a high selection for different productions and a particular type of presentation. It’s about the best combination of characteristics: handfeel, touch, aspect and so forth. A leather can best maintain its "luxury" status by remaining exceptional, always trying to retain these characteristics and always sticking to the trend.

LEATHER International: The costs of raw material are very high at the moment. How is this affecting your business?

J C Muller: The current high raw material costs and the regular increase in prices are affecting our margins. The prices that we negotiate with our customers are fixed for six months, but raw hide prices have been increasing since the end of 2012 and we haven’t yet increased our selling price.

Some of our customers will not be able to follow this increase. Eventually there will come a time when they’ll have no other choice than to change the kind of leather that they use.

It’s a mistake to think that customers in the luxury market are ready to pay for leather, whatever the price. They belong to big groups and are run like any other big company, looking at their cost level as closely as anyone else. They have plenty of options – more than we do – to adapt or re-orient their strategy.

LEATHER International: Can you explain to us the reasons behind luxury brands buying tanners in Europe?

J C Muller: It’s a consequence of the evolution of the market. They managed to have such power in proposing and selling their products, that each new outlet and boutique meant more sales.

They have no problem in selling their products but increasingly found problems in manufacturing them and finding the raw materials to process them. That’s why they start to control or take over from small manufacturers. Today’s policy of buying tanners responds to that same logic – control their source (upstream) as they control the outlets (downstream).

LEATHER International: How do you see the market developing over the next few years?

J C Muller: The demand for luxury goods is still high and always will be. But the market has reached its maturity – future growth won’t be so dramatic. More and more brands will come onto this market and try to find their place in it. The old ones will also look to have a new life and business will be difficult for them. Competition will makes business more and more difficult.