Having held the last edition in Hong Kong in 2019, APLF Dubai marks its return since the 2019 event. It is the first time that the world’s leading leather show is being held outside its home city.
It hardly seems credible that the last edition of APLF concluded three years and 12 days ago in Hong Kong. At that time there were plans afoot to relocate the leather fair to two halls on the third floor of the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Center to create a new dynamic and improved visitor flow, for the eager exhibitors who had already reserved their space. With just under two months to go before the inauguration of APLF 2020 in Hong Kong, the COVID-19 pandemic was declared.
The result was a series of lockdowns, international travel restrictions and compulsory quarantine of up to 14 days in many countries for arriving travelers as was the case in Hong Kong. Thus, ongoing restrictions in Hong Kong caused successive postponements of APLF and as a result the Organizers took the decision to move the fair to Dubai as the best alternative location for the 2022 event.
When it became clear six months before APLF was due to be held for the 2022 edition, the Hong Kong authorities had extended COVID-19 restrictions until the end of March 2022, thus the management decided to look for an alternative location for the 2022 APLF event. Several alternative cities were considered including Bangkok and Singapore, but the only country that met specific criteria necessary to hold an international event was Dubai.
Impact of the pandemic
The global economy has been impacted by the pandemic in the last three years and this includes the leather footwear, leather goods and fashion sectors. Many tanneries and footwear manufacturers have continued operations but at a much lower capacity when compared to pre pandemic levels. Some companies may have even ceased trading but the full effects are yet to be confirmed.
During the pandemic many businesses were affected by various lockdowns, so consumers were limited to online retailers such as Amazon, Alibaba and UPS. The negative impact on consumer spending traveled upstream to manufacturers and their raw material suppliers causing the latter to fall in price and reach a low point of approximately US$15 for benchmark Heavy Texas steers – a level not seen since the mid 1970’s.
Raw material prices started running away with themselves sparked by low slaughter as demand improved in 2021 and soon recovered to US$55, before retracing to US$30 which is a far more attractive price for tanneries to restock.
As scientists began to understand more about the pandemic and mass vaccinations became available in 2021, green shoots of the economy became apparent. The trillions of dollars injected into the economy combined with all but zero interest rates manifested themselves primarily in asset price inflation. Stock markets, especially in the US, reached levels never seen before and big ticker luxury items such as cars, private jets and yachts all enjoyed the bonanza of the deluge of almost free dollars.
Luxury brands also benefited, increased their prices and the results have been evident from the end of year results published by leading luxury conglomerates such as LVMH, Kering and Richemont.
During this period, the leather sector started a steady recovery as consumer demand picked up. Sustainability and environmental care which had become more important in the last decade took center stage as leading tanners launched branded sustainable leathers and introduced social responsibility into their corporate business model.
One global factor that is yet to be resolved is the cost of logistics and shipping. Spiraling freight charges are fueling inflation and disrupting supply chains in many industries, and not just in the leather sector.
Advances in Sustainability during the Pandemic
Sustainable certification from companies such as the Leather Working Group and ISO were key credentials. The relentless competition by synthetic brands on leather and NGO’s such as PETA encouraged the leather sector to be more unified to defend itself from unwarranted attacks not only in social media but also in the mainstream press., Campaigns such as the Sustainable Leather Foundation, Leather Naturally and original, out-of-the-box leather marketing campaign METCHA maintaining a visible presence to educate the consumer, promote and defend the industry.
With soil erosion becoming a pressing issue due to intense industrial agricultural techniques, farmers and scientists are now advocating what is known as “regenerative agriculture”. This reverses exhausted tops oil, which is vital for growing arable crops for human consumption but requires planned grazing of livestock to recreate the conditions for soil amelioration demanded by nature. A product of this technique is “regenerative leather” from animals that have been raised using planned grazing. Now there are major leather brands that have a policy of sourcing only regenerative leather that can be traced back to its origin in the manufacture of their products. As a result, this helps contribute to what is nearing “total sustainability in terms of environmental care.
However, based on consultations by APLF with leading stakeholders in the industry, the need for a return to face-to-face sales and marketing platforms is paramount – and this leads us to reveal some details about this Special Edition of APLF in Dubai in the coming three days.
The Dubai Participants
As a Special Edition in Dubai, there are a total of 463 exhibitors from 35 countries and regions at APLF-Leather, Materials+ and Fashion Access.
Major tanning groups will be present occupying 20,000 square meters of exhibition space with 20 national pavilions from Brazil, Egypt, France, Georgia, India, Italy, Japan, Pakistan, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, USA, Uzbekistan and Zimbabwe.
Notably there is an absence of exhibitors from China due to the COVID-19 travel and quarantine restrictions in force. After the latest outbreak in several major cities, millions of citizens are living under lockdowns until the outbreaks are contained. Such restrictions will also impact visitors from China attending APLF in Dubai, but the location of the fair will offer opportunities to buyers from the Indian sub-continentcountries to attend.
APLF has worked assiduously with national leather, footwear and retail associations from Egypt, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey, as well as those from Indian sub-continent, Europe and Africa to organise buying groups to APLF Dubai.
Additionally, APLF has worked with the Dubai Chamber to promote Dubai Expo 2020 and APLF Dubai. Their VIP programme gives APLF’s buyers and exhibitors an incentive to visit the World Expo 2020 and attend business matching meetings during the fair.
Events – Dubai 2022
The primary aim of a trade fair is to promote business and allow the industry to meet, exchange ideas and information, consolidate existing customer relations and meet new contacts. However, as business has become more globalised, education and information are vital to understand and fulfill the future needs of a changing industry and consumer demands.
It is with this in mind that APLF maintains a comprehensive programme of conferences, seminars and workshops that run concurrently with the trade fairs so as to present a complete, rounded event to the sectors it serves – the International Leather and Fashion Industries.
APLF Dubai is no exception and for the complete list of the events, please visit www.aplf.com.
What happens after APLF Dubai?
After 35 years being held in Hong Kong and being rebranded in 1993 as the Asia Pacific Leather Fair, APLF was effectively “embedded” as the gateway to the China leather and footwear industries. The strategic position of APLF in Hong Kong brought western suppliers and Chinese buyers together.
China continued to expand and strengthen its manufacturing and export base into the 1990’s some 15 years after Deng Xiaoping’s Open-Door policy was launched in 1979. As a vital characteristic of APLF’s role in Asia, there will be significant post-Dubai activity in relation to China and South East Asian buyers for Dubai exhibitors.
The objective is to allow Dubai exhibitors and Chinese buyers to do business even though it may not be on a face-to-face basis in Dubai. Due to the travel restrictions, some Asia-Pacific (APAC) buyers including those from China may not be able to attend APLF Dubai.