Bursting to get bigger and better

AFTER 10 years of continuous expansion, the world's second biggest leather show is in need of a change.

These days, even the 36,000 square metres of area made available to exhibitors is not enough.

''We are absolutely at bursting point. The facilities at the Exhibition Centre and the China Resources Centre just cannot accommodate any more growth,'' said Mr Derek Dickins, managing director of the Hongkong Trade Fair Group, organisers of the Leather Fair '93.

''There's a limit to what's physically possible. Last year, for example, we even fitted air-conditioning, carpeting and lights in the loading bays to turn them into auxiliary exhibition areas,'' he said.

''Yet again, this year, we have long waiting lists with many countries seeking to expand their displays.

''For instance, the Italians, who are already by far the largest national group, want to increase their space by 50 per cent,'' Mr Dickins said.

From next year, Hongkong's largest trade fair will last seven days, instead of the four planned for this year.

It will also be divided into two phases, under the umbrella title of ''The Colourful World of Leather''.

The first three and a half days, which are already sold out, will centre on the raw materials, chemical treatments and tanning of the hides, manufacturing machinery and shoe technology.

Part two will follow and will focus on the finished product - manufactured leather goods and fashion items covering everything from shoes to suitcases.

''Despite this move, I predict that, within three to five years, even seven days won't be enough. Fortunately, that is in a time scale that would tie in pretty well with the planned expansion of the Convention and Exhibition Centre,'' said Mr Dickins.

The new arrangements have the industry's blessing, unlike the changes which have been planned for the biggest leather industry fair of all - September's Semaine Internationale de Cuir in Paris.

January's announcement of a change of name to InterSIC and a change of venue reportedly infuriated the trade, especially the Italian contingent, and boosted the number of inquiries for the Hongkong show.

''Basically, what we have done is to move all the finished leather product displays into their own show in the first two days,'' Mr Dickins said.

''That makes very good sense.'' Mr Dickins said the fair was originally intended for the productive side of the industry, but the finished-product dealers gained a toe-hold and their numbers continued to grow.

Mr Dickens stressed, however, that these dealers were welcome.

''The show was originally intended to be primarily focused on the productive end of the industry, not the selling end,'' he explained.

''The 4,000 square metres they would have taken can now be given over to the manufacturers, while the finished products will have their own exclusive show.

''This fits precisely with the worldwide trend in the exhibition industry towards more specialised fairs offering buyers direct access to the exhibitors,'' he added.

Mr Dickins believed there would be an increase in the amount of activity on the periphery of future leather fairs.

''It is obviously the perfect opportunity for visitors to go on into China to see the rapid expansion that is taking place in the leather industry there.''