Hot in São Paulo
It’s Tuesday and it is hot in São Paulo, and late afternoon some of the suburbs are flooded when a huge thunderstorm fills the skies with incredible rain for an hour. The lights and power go out at Cuoromoda and the 2nd International Leather Forum is nearly brought to a stop.
But the leather forum makes it through having heard quick punchy presentations on the state of trade from the perspectives of the ICT, EU, China, Africa, Brazil, and the USA. All have now come to the conclusion that was coming apparent a few years ago but many were rejecting. Supply of hides and skins from red meat is slowing and in many places declining. As world human populations continue to grow supply of hides will not keep up.
Defining leather is not easy
The second agreed point is that companies making products from leather have options they did not have fifty years ago. They can substitute leather with textiles and other materials including plastics of various types. And many of these plastics, or “synthetics”, are getting very good. As hide prices are high right now the synthetics are getting more market share and the tanners have suddenly realised that they have allowed the definition of leather to be left behind by events of the last twenty years, and have not protected it.
Synthetic materials are stealing the marketing claims and even the name of leather with impunity. The definition of when a leather is PU, PU Coated leather, or just leather with a PU coat upset the tanners who were lapse when definitions were set. Two things are clear. One is that the consumer is getting confused, often quite deliberately about what he or she is buying. The second is that if tanners intend to try and get a better definition for leather they had better move fast, before the EU endorses what is currently going through.
Making good leather is all that tanners do
My role was to discuss LeatherNaturally! and fight off some deliberately provocative comments from Ron Sauer that marketing is useless, promoting leather should not be undertaken and we should sit around and let tanners and their leather get squeezed into low margins forever. He did say that he was looking more from the demand side rather than the supply side. This is what the industry needs more of, but I do not believe that was what Ron was really doing.
If we had as an industry looked more at the consumers over the last twenty years our product would not only have been better defined, it would have been better promoted. What is all more this would have made tanners and brands consider much more about upgrading middle and lower grades into quality leather rather than further confusing consumers my coating it with so much finish even tanners struggle to tell it from plastic. Tanners should only be making leather, real leather, leather that looks like leather, and leather the consumer can tell is leather by touch, look and feel.