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APLF 2017: A critical view of the business in challenging times
Mike Redwood | 29 March 2017

Day 1 Commentary

The first day of APLF saw the corridors steadily fill with exhibitors and visitors divided strictly into the optimists and pessimists. For some the year is proving no better than last, which was not the greatest, and rising hide prices cannot be passed on in higher leather prices.

They are feeling squeezed and are desperately hoping for a market change, but cannot see anything on the horizon to catalyse such a change.

On the other hand, there is a group of much more proactive tanners who appear to have identified sectors of opportunity where they can do well and prosper. Most are producing with a strong focus on sustainability and live according to the argument from the famous business consultant Peter Drucker that ͞only marketing and innovation count in business, everything else is cost.͟ 

Being more determined and positive seems likely to be increasingly important since political changes in the EU and USA have greatly increased the volatility and uncertainty of the business environment in which the industry will work. Talks on the state of trade at the opening press conference all identified this changing environment, all at a time during which China is going through a complicated transition from producer to consumer nation. Tanners cannot afford to be found drifting or becalmed in such times.

Even the chemical industry is seeing big changes with the uniting of BASF and Stahl leather chemicals under the Stahl banner being much discussed. It seems certain that the success of this will be proven at the customer interface and Stahl are making it quite clear that this is the plan.