At ACLE 2012, the focus country is Turkey, through the support of the Aegean Exporters’ Association. Expect more Turkish tanneries at the fair with the Turkish pavilion space increased by 25%.

A total of 18 other international pavilions are confirmed: Australia, Brazil, China, Ethiopia, France, Germany, India, Italy, Korea, Mexico, Pakistan, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand and USA. Brazil has expanded its pavilion space by 10%.

Other long-time exhibitors are increasing the size of their booths. This year, space booking is up by 33%. Altogether ACLE will occupy 7 halls (Halls E1 – E7), of which 2.5 halls (28,000 sq m) are for international exhibitors, and 4.5 halls (52,500 sq m) for domestic parts, products and machinery.

One exhibitor, Heller-Leder from Germany who will be showing their beautiful olive-tanned leather which won the Best New Leather award at the APLF in Hong Kong last March.

There will be 22 new exhibitors at this year’s fair. Two countries – Uruguay and Nicaragua – will be represented for the first time.

The increased participation of international tanneries and leather companies is in recognition of China’s relevance as a major market for leather. Despite continued economic difficulties in some parts of the world, and indeed within China itself, it remains very much the only major economy storming ahead and generating new demand for leather.

Rising living standards in emerging markets in Asia bring with them demands for leather of higher quality, broader range, and better price. Chinese consumers in particular, demand more sophisticated designs in their leather products, be it garments, upholstery, or footwear. 

There is a cause for concern, however, with the shortfall in the supply of hides and skins that has resulted in higher-pegged prices affecting all levels of the supply chain, from tanners and manufacturers of leather goods to retailers.

This has led to the growing use and acceptance of lower quality leather or

synthetics made to look like leather in garments, footwear and car upholstery. Some vehicle manufacturers, for example, use a decent quality leather on the outer parts of the seat, but something much inferior – even synthetics – in the less visible parts. 

Although this practice might help meet consumers’ demand for lower-priced yet fashionable items, this changes the perception of leather as a luxury product. This is another issue that needs to be addressed and, hopefully, exhibitions like ACLE will help elevate leather standards in the markets.

Those familiar with the ACLE will be familiar too with the co-located fairs: China International Footwear Fair (CIFF), and Moda Shanghai. These well established exhibitions for leather footwear, bags, garments and a range of fashion products concentrate more on medium to high-end manufacturers showing to Chinese buyers.

Although CIFF and Moda Shanghai remain separate events, in practice they help to make ACLE not only the premier leather exhibition in China, but also an excellent sourcing platform for the full range of leather products.