A strange time of year

25 April 2004

As I write this, I am about to leave for the Asia Pacific Leather Fair in Hong Kong. However, the magazine will not be distributed until after I return home to the UK. I wish I had a reliable crystal ball which would tell me what was going to happen during the fair but as I do not, I waver between the notion that fewer people will attend because they managed to survive and continue to trade after last year's cancellation and the idea that people will flock to the show in their anxiety to get back into the swim. The start of this year has not been a happy one for our industry. Continuing fears of terrorist activity have had a negative effect on consumer confidence and the US has been involved in urgent negotiations to re-establish normal trading conditions after the discovery of BSE in just one dairy cow. In China, we hear of a continuing crack-down by customs and tax officials which keeps the Chinese tanner looking over his shoulder. Also, according to Hidenet, the Nan Hai tannery has closed down in Guangdong and it is not known if it will reopen. Apparently this large tannery have been facing difficulties for some time. There is more bad news from Italy. At the Anpic show in Mexico, where numbers were down, there was talk of three calf leather tanners closing their doors in Santa Croce. And in theSauerReport there is mention of two bankruptcies in Italy, one in the north and the other in Santa Croce, plus news that a large tannery in the north is laying off workers and concentrating production on wet-blue only. So we need a buoyant APLF and with hide prices so low, tanners should be able to find a bargain just as long as they can also find the customers for their leather. After weeks of speculation, LeatherXchange finally announced their insolvency less than a week before their scheduled automotive leather conference at the Jaguar Conference Centre in Coventry in the UK. The timing of the announcement means, effectively, that all conference delegates would have paid their fees but also that many will have made non-refundable travel plans. While the bankruptcy was official from March 16, it was not until the afternoon of March 17 that they finally notified their subscribers and conference delegates. On the morning of March 17, the conference centre was still under the impression that the conference was on and one of the speakers, alerted by us, phoned LeatherXchange to be told that they were surprised that he had not already been notified. Even the guy who provided them with prices for their information services hadn't heard officially. On March 19 he wrote to his contributors to inform them of the cessation of the service, saying he had not been directly notified, nor did he expect to be. For any of our readers who have lost their subscription for the market report, please contact [email protected] or go to his website where he is making a generous offer to 'victims' that he will honour LeatherXchange contracts. Hidenet.com would also like to hear from anyone interested in their service. And Sam Setter has written to me to say: ' Adam Baker shut down his e-mail. Mail is coming back from the postmaster telling you that the account doesn't exist.' Mind you, I don't blame him. I would probably do the same in the circumstances since there are probably quite a few angry people out there. Please may I make it abundantly clear that the cancellation of their conference is in no way connected with our own Upholstery Leather Conference scheduled for Verona, Italy, May 1-3. We have a full programme of speakers lined up plus an optional visit to the Lamborghini factory and the famous Galleria Ferrari on the third day. This conference will take place as planned and a lot of effort has gone into making it as interesting for delegates as possible.

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