APLF all set for change

30 May 2006

The Asia Pacific Leather Fair in Hong Kong opened during weather that was typical of an English summer in that it was unusually cool for Hong Kong. And it rained a lot! By the end of the show, however, the sun was shining and the humidity high. But what about inside the exhibition and convention centre? Only the second day of the show showed any real signs of aisles brimming with visitors but many of the exhibitors still reported that they had seen as many people as they expected to. There are signs of returning strength to the leather industry overall but for all those exhibitors who reported good business, there were others who were disappointed. It is not enough to simply exhibit, you must also canvas your customer list, issue invitations and, above all, make your stand look interesting and worth visiting. Bland white booths with no products or posters will not tempt visitors in. Hall three was much smaller this year as a number of the big chemicals companies decided not to show. In fact, one supplier who had gone to the expense of exhibiting said that although his customers were present elsewhere in the building, he had to visit them as none of them made it to the top level. Next year, the show is likely to look somewhat different, however. The owners of the centre are about to embark on a two and half year expansion programme which will extend the halls out into the atrium of the newest part of the building. Plans are due to be finalised in August and work scheduled to begin in December. New roads and an MTR station are under consideration. The APLF organisers have decided to move the occupants of hall three down to hall one and also to cut the number of days from four to three. This means that both parts of the show will now run for three days concurrently. This should make the materials and manufacturing section of the show much easier to get around and with everyone together technology exhibitors will have their customers on their doorstep. While the materials sector has contracted, the Fashion Access part of the fair is showing a healthy growth and this should aid the tanners to see more potential customers. This is still a big show, even if the emphasis is shifting away from technology and towards finished goods. As this is still the only truly international show in the annual calendar, the trade needs to support it if they truly regard the industry as global. While exhibitions such as Chennai and Shanghai are still growing, they are primarily aimed at doing business with India and China. There is a huge variety of nations participating in APLF and this needs to continue. Although the potential of mainland China beckons, Hong Kong retains several distinct advantages; the most important of which is the truly global reach of the fair. This point was highlighted by Mr Choi, of Hamy Leather, Korea, who said: 'It is the first time I participated in APLF and we were impressed by the scale of the fair. We met many new buyers from the USA and Europe. Most are high quality leathergoods brands looking for innovative and high quality leather. In comparison with All China Leather Exhibition (ACLE), where we also exhibited, at APLF we could sell our higher quality range of leather.' Very similar sentiments were echoed by Cueroflex, an Argentinian exhibitor at MMT. Sales manager, Patricio Polazzo says: 'We have been selling our product (reconstituted leather) in China for many years and we are well known. However, the advantage of APLF is that it allows us to meet customers not only from Asia and China but also from all over the world... Here in Hong Kong, due to the quality of the clients we have met, we are only offering our top quality lines.' Nigel Dobson, of Astley Leathers in New Zealand conceded although they did not exhibit last year, 'this year we returned with a stand, since we've been exhibiting in Hong Kong for more than 20 years. We have clients in the USA and Canada and we meet them here at the APLF.' Umberto Sacchelli, president of the Brazilian Tannery Association (CICB), noted that with a total of 40 Brazilian companies exhibiting in the national pavilion, the presence at APLF represented more than 50% of total Brazilian leather production. 'Hong Kong is very important for Brazil as a sales platform to Asia. Brazilian tanneries are selling mainly wet-blue and crust, as well as finished leather to China but received visitors from other places in Asia such as Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea.' According to the organisers, a total of 45,915 buyers visited APLF 2006. This represents 27,819 for MMT which encompassed 1,800 plus exhibiting companies from 59 countries and regions. Buyers from North America were up by some 17% over 2005 and by 8% from South America. The 22nd edition of the Asia Pacific Leather Fair (APLF), held from March 28-31, 2006, demonstrated, once again, that Hong Kong remains the preferred choice for many companies in the industry, especially those operating in the global marketplace.

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