After a five-year gap, APLF finally returned to its home base in Hong Kong to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its launch in 1984.

Due to low prices and slow demand for leather, especially in the footwear sector, pre-fair expectations were mixed and somewhat muted. At the same time, there were hopes that the return of APLF could give the flagging market a much-needed boost, as was expressed by Toni Baltes, President of the International Council for Hides, Skins & Leather Traders Associations (ICHSLTA) at the cocktail reception held on the evening before the fair.

No one really knew what to expect, and there was a visible sense of relief when the fair finally opened on the morning of 19 March with crowds of visitors waiting to enter the exhibition halls. The fair got off to a brisk start and was busy throughout the day.

Reports in the Italian publications Leather Insiders and La Conceria wrote that the return of APLF had been a success but wonder how much business had been transacted.

Nevertheless, exhibitors were satisfied with the movement of visitors, even though footfall was somewhat lower on the second and third days of the event.

Considering the mixed economic backdrop, APLF ended its 38th edition reflecting actual market conditions. However, the fair had served its purpose of bringing the main players of the global leather industry together, once again, on the one roof to reestablish costumer contacts on a face-to-face basis.

Historically, the leather business has always been a “people business” and APLF continue this function even after and enforce five-year absence.

The Participants

There were approximately 740 exhibiting companies at APLF 2024, of which almost 500 were in the two leather halls on Level 3 of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

One of the significant features of the APLF Leather fair is that leading tanning countries organise national pavilions at the fair. This year there were 18 nationals’ pavilions from countries such as Australia, Brazil, China, France, Japan, Korea, India, Italy, Mexico, Pakistan, Portugal, Spain, Thailand, Türkiye, and USA amongst others.

Some of these pavilions had reduced their exhibition space compared to the last fair held in Hong Kong in 2019 for various reasons. For example, the pandemic, follow by the conflict in Ukraine impacted the global economy and companies in the leather industry were not immune from the negative consequences.

Even the world’s two leading producers of leather, China and Italy, have had a difficult 2023. Mr Chen Zhanguang, Vice Chairman of China Leather Industry Association (CLIA) reported on the performance of the China leather industry during the All China Leather Exhibition 2024 press conference. He highlighted that leather production had declined yet again in China.

In the case of Italy, at a meeting in Arzignano on 13 March, UNIC stated that production of leather in Italy had fallen to its lowest level in forty years.

Thus, it is still not possible to gauge how many companies may have gone out of business or substantially reduced their business activities. Hence, there were fewer exhibitors participating at the event.

Visitors

The 2024 edition of APLF attracted around 12,000 visitors from 73 countries and regions.

The Top 10 visiting countries and regions (excluding Hong Kong) were as follows:

China, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Türkiye, USA and Vietnam

What makes the top visiting list of countries interesting is that China and India are the two major Asian economies with the highest forecasted GDP growth for 2024 and the highest levels of Consumer Confidence. This is according to the macroeconomic statistical website, Trading Economics.

This is a clear illustration of how APLF reflects economics in the Asian region and the potential demand for supplies and products related to the leather and fashion sectors.

Some Exhibitors Comment

Commercial Director of Arlei Leather from Argentina, Gabriel Barmaimon, commented on the large number of visitors who passed through the fair on the first day, among whom were many buyers from China. International business is challenging for Argentina tanners as they are struggling with an “economic storm” at home and an unstable exchange rate when it comes to exports. There is tough competition from Brazil.

Brazil – Back with a Bang at APLF!

The 55 Brazilian participants who exhibited at APLF with the support of Brazilian Leather projected sales of US$ 185.2 million for the next 12 months, based on contacts made in Hong Kong. This number exceeds the total recorded in 2019, which was US$181.1 million.

Sales contracts signed during APLF Leather also show positive numbers for Brazilian tanneries: US$33.9 million worth of leather was sold over the three days of the fair, almost 30% more compared to 2019. Contacts established are also on the rise: 1.5 thousand in 2024, compared to 1.4 thousand in the most recent edition, five years ago.

The evaluation of Brazilian tanneries participating in the fair was excellent: 100% are interested in returning in 2025, and 93.94% evaluate the event as positive.

Gruppo Mastrotto from Italy comments that we just returned from APLF Hong Kong, the commercial hub for the leather manufacturing in Asia, there was no shortage of networking opportunities, sustainability insights and collection presentation for our upholstery and fashion customers.

Tannery Miret from Spain – the 2024 fair had showed good movement of visitors and he had seen various peers and customers who had visited his stand at the last fair held in Hong Kong, in 2019.

Manager of Teknocuero from Mexico – Miguel Angel Dominguez noted that automotive leather is buoyant, but the shoe industry has yet to “wake up”. Mr. Dominguez was very enthusiastic about APLF Leather this year as he considered the visitor flow and quality of buyers much better than the last event held in Hong Kong, five years ago.

Importance of Onsite Events

Education and information form part of APLF’s onsite events agenda and are an example of APLF serving the leather industry by being part of it.

One of the key events held furring APLF 2024 was the seminar on the main stage dealing with the subject of deforestation and the regulations governing raw materials exported from the Amazon to the European Union.

The speakers came from influential organisations in the leather industry such as COTANCE, the Leather Working Group, the Sustainable Leather Foundation, and the World Wildlife Fund.

Just as the seminar on Deforestation is a clear signal of how information can be imparted about the latest topics concerning the leather industry, in the same way there were other onsite events such as Let’s Talk Leather Masterclass and Leather Foundation Course for Fashion Professionals held during APLF 2024 dedicated to the leather industry.

And for the footwear sector, APLF presented:

Global Footwear Executive Summit 2024

In its third edition, Global Footwear Executive Summit is an annual gathering of industry leaders, executives, and professionals from the global footwear sector. Held on 20th March 2024, participants gain valuable knowledge about the latest advancements in materials, manufacturing technologies, retail strategies, and consumer behavior.

These were some of the standout onsite events held during APLF 2024 which combined with the trade fair’s commercial platform to offer education and information to all industry stakeholders attending the fair.

The APLF team is already planning the organisation of APLF 2025 as part of its ongoing mission to continue serving the global leather and fashion sectors.

Our next event in Hong Kong will take place from 12 – 14 March 2025, so keep up to date with the latest news by following us on www.aplf.com.

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