A recent edition of la conceria, the Italian tanners’ magazine, asks the question: What is the strategy of the giant chemicals plants when it comes to trade fairs? Their answer is: ‘Simple: don’t do them. Tanning Tech has been abandoned. The only fairs that are interesting (and then only a little) are those in Asia, as long as they are classed as regional.’
They conclude that the trade fair is on the wane and headlined their story: ‘The multinationals: no more trade fairs!’ While this may be a rather sweeping assumption, the indications are clear that this is an extremely worrying time for trade fair organisations. And we must never under-estimate the power of the chemicals industry.
As long as there is any demand at all for leather, there will be trade in raw materials and chemicals. It is a very different case for the machinery manufacturers, however, because when tanners are suffering, whether it be from lack of business or high raw materials costs, the last thing they are going to want to do is invest in expensive machinery.
But they still need to be able to showcase their machinery and Tanning Tech is the best and possibly only viable venue. The cost involved in shipping machinery around the world is just too high and as the bulk of tanning technology still remains in Europe, this is where there needs to be an exhibition. Members of the Leather International team have recently been visiting in Italy and found the tanning machinery industry already planning their participation in Bologna next year.
According to La Conceria, however, the postponed Tanning Tech was not particularly missed and now the trade is waiting to see the outcome of the proposed spring version. They quote one chemicals supplier as describing Tanning Tech ‘pointless in terms of business and costly from an organisational point of view’.
This same company does not participate in the Hong Kong show either and I have spoken to a number of other large chemicals companies who have decided not to return to either Bologna or Hong Kong.
Let us not forget that it was the concerted withdrawal of the larger chemicals companies which toppled the Semaine Internationale du Cuir. September 1997 saw the last edition of Intersic take place. Princess Diana died in a car accident on August 31 that year and a large flat screen television was installed at the Paris Villepinte exhibition centre so that visitors could view the funeral.
The following August saw the collapse of the Russian rouble and there was a great deal of animosity expressed at the Istanbul leather fair in September as raw materials traders walked the halls complaining that Turkish tanners were unable to honour their contracts since almost their entire production relied on Russian business.
Another year on, in August 1999, Türkiye suffered its second blow when the Istanbul area was struck by a huge earthquake. The Turkish leather industry, which until this time has been extremely buoyant, has never truly recovered since the 1998 loss of trade and their once ambitious industrial tanning zones are now largely redundant.
Let La Conceria have the final say: The indifference that multinationals have towards trade fairs is not limited to the Bologna event. It is much more internationalised and structural. And they end with this quote: ‘Nowadays, if there is something new to see, to discuss, it’s all done on site. We cannot wait until the trade fair comes round.’