New-look gathering lures 3,150 exhibitors

THE Leather Fair, Asia's largest trade gathering, has a very different look this year - a new format, new name and new opportunities.

The most obvious change is that the show is now in two separate sections, and is almost twice the size of the 1993 fair.

Part One, from tomorrow until Friday, is entitled Raw Materials and Manufacturing and will focus solely on the production side, with everything that goes into the making of leather, from the raw hides and tanning processes through to the chemical treatments and dyeing to the massive machinery.

After a two-day break, Part Two will be dedicated to Fashion and Finished Products. Running from April 25 to 27, this will feature everything made of leather, from shoes and suitcases to clothing and accessories.

The exhibition has been renamed the Asia Pacific Leather Fair, and the new opportunities derive from the vastly increased scale. It has more exhibitors, from more countries, and with more products.

Derek Dickins, managing director of the Hong Kong Trade Fair Group (HKTFG), knew he was taking a risk when he split what was formerly the Hong Kong Leather Fair into two sections.


''We were changing a winning formula and the outcome was uncertain.

''But, now, we have two full-fledged fairs in their own right, and the marketing concept behind the move has been vindicated as an outstanding success,'' he said.

Last year, the absolute maximum capacity was 2,250 exhibitors. This year, the same number will attend Part 1 alone, using 35,000 sq m of the Convention and Exhibition Centre (CEC) plus a 1,000 sq m overflow area in the adjoining China Resources Building.

In addition, at least a further 900 exhibitors - an increase of more than 200 per cent - have signed up for Part 2, which will occupy 20,000 sq m in the CEC.


Mr Dickins said the two events might eventually drift apart, but added that simple logic maintained a direct linkage.

''Even if the fashion side became absolutely huge, it would not overshadow Part 1. You cannot have leather fashions without leather production first. There is a natural business connection, with each stage supplying the next.


''All Part 2 exhibitors will be examining the new leathers becoming available, and all Part 1 people will be trying to discover what new products the manufacturers are demanding,'' he said.

About 35,000 visitors are expected at the show, where Iceland, Papua New Guinea, Slovenia, Libya, Panama and Greece will make their debut. In all, 45 countries will be represented.

As ever, Italy will be the largest group, with 250 companies taking 4,300 sq m of exhibition space.


Asia's largest group is Taiwan, with more than 120 companies exhibiting. From South America, the Brazilian presence has tripled.

In the near future, the HKTFG will take a long hard look at the overall shape of the fair, but there will definitely be no change in the format for 1995.

The planning lead time of two years meant 1996 would the earliest date for any further evolution of the event, Mr Dickins said.


The second significant development is a testament to the growing importance of the region's leather consumption in global terms.

The French company, Semaine du Cuir (SdC), organisers of the world's largest leather fair held each autumn in Paris, has bought a 40 per cent shareholding in a new joint venture company, Alstar Enterprises, that is organising the Asia Pacific Leather Fair. The remainder of the shares is held by HKTFG.

Mr Dickins said: ''This shows great confidence in the wider Asian region and, in particular, in both the pivotal role and long-term stability of Hong Kong.

''It also represents recognition of the shift in the industry's marketing emphasis from Europe towards Asia. Though the Far East is no longer a major production centre, it is a huge consumer market with a lot of disposable income.

''Nor do we underestimate the tremendous cachet of having the SdC stamp of approval. Their partnership has given a very positive contribution to sales of exhibition stands, especially in Europe.' Wearing a different hat, as chairman of the Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Organisers and Suppliers' Association, Mr Dickins said he had two messages for the authorities: ''Bravo to the Finance Committee for approving the funding for Convention Centre extension, and to the Government - 'Come on, we could use these facilities today '.''