With the 20th edition of ACLE starting today and the European tanning industry coming back from its annual August vacation shut-down, many industry participants are wondering if this major international leather fair will give some definitive pointers on the actual state of the Chinese leather sector.
In fact, with the culmination of the 3rd World Leather Congress yesterday, there may already be some indicators available from the experts where “The Leather Revolution” is taking place not only China, but in the global leather industry as a whole.
So far this year the demand for leather from the footwear sector has been lackluster as brands continue to buy synthetics for both uppers and soles. This may be a question of price in order to maintain manufacturing margins but since the end of APLF Leather in early April, US hide prices have declined by around 30% which should make raw material procurement somewhat more competitive.
Let us recall that demand for shoe leather declined after leather managed to “price itself out of the market” when prices soared to historically high levels in September 2014, opening the door to cheaper synthetic substitutes as the crude oil price fell sharply.
The industries that have sustained leather demand – and prices – have been the automotive and furniture sectors. Demand for new vehicles has reached unprecedented levels in China with almost 28 million new units being sold in 2016. Interest in the China automotive market is underlined by the fact that major automotive specialist companies such as Lear and Faurecia have now established themselves in Mainland China.
Although the sales of new vehicles appears to be leveling out in 2017, demand is much higher than in 2014 when leather prices hit their highs.
At ACLE 2017 traders, tanners, raw material and chemical suppliers will be able to assess the state of the industry by conversing with their customers and competitors. With leather prices still displaying a softening trend at the present time, demand from Chinese tanners may be sparked as bargain hunting comes into play as noted in the final week of July when three major Chinese tanneries snapped up huge consignments of US raw hides at bargain basement prices.
With the growth of the Chinese economy surprising many observers by maintaining an expansion of around 6.9% and consumer demand still on track to grow by more than 10% this year, China and its burgeoning middle class are still the place to market and sell well-designed and manufactured products sought by increasingly savvy consumers.
Despite political hotspots persisting in some parts of the world optimism is being displayed by the performance of stock markets especially in developed countries such as the US and the EU countries. These are positive signs for consumer demand and optimistic consumers are still attracted by quality products with the craftmanship that only well-made leather garments, bags and shoes can demonstrate.
Environmental advances and key demand sectors for China’s leather industry
Almost three years ago China’s authorities took a decisive step to clean up polluting industries such as textiles and leather in order to protect the environment as well as the health of its citizens living near textile mills and tanneries.
In the leather sector in the northern province of Hebei many small tanneries were forced to suspend production and close operations; many more went out of business since they could not afford the investment to install new equipment necessary to meet new and strict environmental regulations.
Now, almost there years later the clean-up process for the leather industry is complete in time for this year’s ACLE as we were informed by CLIA Honorary Chairman, Su Chaoying, during APLF - Leather earlier this year.
The result has been that larger tanneries can now produce sustainable leather which is more marketable on the world stage and introduce technological developments. At the same time, they have contributed to the clean-up process which has benefited the environment and China’s citizens.
At ACLE 2017 several specialized tanneries from Hebei have returned to the fair with new products aimed at the booming automotive and furniture upholstery sectors.
As the CLIA states in its literature: “Strengthening environmental protection is the only way to enhance companies’ competitiveness in the industry as a whole and meet customers’ requirements”.
With the environmental free-for-all in China’s main leather producing regions now over, more marketable and competitive leather products can be offered to the automotive, furniture, leathergoods and eventually the footwear sector when demand recovers.
China’s leather sector now has created the conditions for the first time for its reputation as a sustainable supplier of materials to be finally established both competitively and internationally.
Special Events Schedule at ACLE 2017
On Day 1 and Day 2 of ACLE (30 & 31 August) there will be a series of conferences and seminars to complement the trade show thus giving it an integral nature for both exhibitors and buyers.
Seminars are focused primarily on China’s leather sector now that it has overcome many environmental challenges and ranges from technology for total solutions in tanning to sustainability in Chinese tannery operations. There is a seminar on leather fashion trend, mapping out the future of China’s leather sector and product development fron concept to consumer.
Full details of the Special Events Schedule is included on the list now available to domestic and international media.
Facts and Figures at ACLE 2017
This year there will be 1,081 exhibitors at ACLE 2017 which is in line with previous editions of this important trade fair.
There are 21 group pavilions from the following countries - Australia, Brazil (2), China, Ethiopia (2), France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Pakistan, Spain, Taiwan (3), Thailand, Turkey and USA (2).
Although ACLE is directed mainly at China’s leather sector the 39 countries represented as having exhibitors span the globe indicating the global nature – not only of the leather industry itself, but also of ACLE as an international event.
The main product sector at the fair is Semi-Finished / Crust Leather / Finished Leather for all possible manufacturing applications.
Visitors at ACLE 2017
At last year’s ACLE 23,500 visitors passed through the fair with more than 19,000 coming from the main manufacturing provinces of Mainland China. This figure could well be repeated this year.
Co-organisers, CLIA, run a multi-level campaign fo invitations such as email, SMS, advertisements among others to ensure that China’s leather sector is well informed of its most important annual event.
This year, the Organisers of ACLE have arranged group tours for buyers from the furniture, automotive, footwear, leathergoods and tanning sectors on Day 1 and 2 of the fair.
Around 20 domestic furniture producers will meet crust and leather suppliers on Day 1, while the group tour for automotive brands and car seat producers will be held on Day 2.
In view of the rapid development of Vietnam’s manufacturing sector, the Organisers also welcome a group of 20 Vietnamese buyers who will come to source leathers, materials and machinery.
For more ACLE information and visiting the fair, please visit www.aclechia.com.