In 2006, exports of Thai leathergoods are predicted to show an increase of 15% over the previous year, to a total of US$1.8billion, with overall leather industry export contributing 1.4% of the country’s GDP.

The export leathergoods industry consists of leather footwear, general leathergoods such as handbags, wallets, key chain holders and other leather gift items as well as tannery products.

The main export destination for Thai leather products are the United States, Hong Kong, Belgium, Japan and the United Kingdom, while France, China and The Netherlands have become new potential markets.

Dhavadh Chiu, president of the Thai Leathergoods Association, revealed: ‘Thai leather products for the export segment is growing steadily at approximately 3 – 5%. This is the result of a continual demand from satisfied buyers worldwide, who are impressed with the unique creative designs and world-standard craftsmanship that Thailand has to offer. In addition, the effort and support provided by related state agencies, private sector and other concerned parties have enabled Thai leathergoods to become extremely competitive in the world market.’

However, Thai leather product manufacturers are facing not only competition from high-end and low-cost manufacturers in Europe and within Asia, but also the challenges of high production costs from imported raw materials and restrictions imposed by brand owners. These factors are hindering the implementation of more aggressive manufacturing and marketing policies and plans.

‘We in Thailand, therefore, have to manufacture more added value products and concentrate more on product development as well as undertake effective marketing and branding strategies to be successful in the near future,’ Chiu commented.

For this reason, the Thai Leathergoods Association has teamed up with the Ministry of Commerce’s Department of Export Promotion (DEP) in order to develop long-term sustainable growth within the industry. DEP’s strategies are to encourage Thai entrepreneurs to develop and maintain product quality, produce creative designs and fine craftsmanship in conjunction with developing their own brands and designers in order to enable Thai leather products to sustain competitiveness in the world market place.

DEP and the Thai Leathergoods Association have also initiated the first ‘Creative Accessories Contest: Bags and Shoes’ this year in order to showcase the winning leather products, designed for the European market, at the BIFF&BIL 2006 event in the Design in Thailand pavilion, signifying sincere support from the Thai government to the country’s export leather industry.

Nearly 150 leather product manufacturers and related associations, not only from Thailand but also from Hong Kong, Japan and India, will be participating at the Bangkok International Fashion Fair and Bangkok International Leather Fair 2006 (BIFF&BIL 2006), which will be held from 27 September – 1 October, 2006 at the Bangkok International Trade & Exhibition Center (BITEC).