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Leather Industry News

Midland Tannery ‘considering options’

Published: 2nd Oct 2023
Author: Tony Dickson - S&V Editor

Wolwehoek, Free State, SA - Midland Tannery, which processes hides from the vertically integrated Midland Group’s feedlots from raw to wet blue, wet white and finished leather, “is considering its options”, GM Rudie Nieuwoudt confirmed on Friday, in response to speculation about its future.

He said a decision would be made by end October. 

How a trip tarnished Germany’s image

Published: 27th Sep 2023
Author: Tony Dickson - S&V Editor

I was in Italy last week, sponsored by Assomac Servizi to attend the Simac/Tanning Tech fair, and technical reports will follow in the October issues of S&V African Leather and S&V Footwear & Leather Goods.

My indelible memory of this trip isn’t of the fair, however. It is the apparent affirmation of the grumbles I’ve heard in recent years by Germans – most, not all, living in SA – about the ‘deterioration’ of Germany, which I’ve always put it down to a generational thing – the older you get, the better ‘the good old days’ seem.

But for 3 of us from SA – Keith Lyons of Strayz Footwear, Colin Parker of Paul Moeller & Co., and I – the return trip seemed to highlight real dysfunction at Frankfurt International Airport – Germany’s “main international airport by passenger numbers”, according to Wikipedia.

The trip started very badly. Our flight from Milan to Frankfurt was late, so we missed our connection to Johannesburg, and Keith seriously injured his knee when he was pushed shortly after landing. Colin wrote a blow-by-blow account of our experience for the people who handled our bookings, but I offer just the most surprising moments of a surreal experience:

  • Close to 6 hours at the airport, trying to find a wheelchair, book another flight, get our luggage, catch a taxi to a hotel (no luck with the booking or getting the luggage).
  • Watching mice/rats scavenging from bins alongside a food area INSIDE the airport building.
  • Cigarette butts lining the hundreds of metres of the taxi ranks (in GERMANY).
  • Waiting 3 HOURS to get a taxi.
  • The utter disorganisation, unhelpfulness, rudeness, and theft – yes, theft – of the taxi drivers. The one who finally took us demanded cash AND the voucher Lufthansa had given us, then took us for a 20-minute drive to a hotel we discovered the next day was 5 minutes from the airport.
  • The helplessness of the senior Lufthansa official who told us it was illegal for taxi drivers to refuse custom, and who suggested WE CALL THE POLICE to ask them to force a taxi to take us.
  • The same official who said the airline used to have its own wheelchairs, but that now all wheelchairs for the airport were controlled by a separate entity (which clearly didn’t have staff working late).
  • The same official who suggested, if we couldn’t get a taxi, getting a room at a 5-star hotel across the road – not covered by the Lufthansa vouchers – and suing Lufthansa later to get our money back.
  • At Germany’s busiest airport, ALL shops, restaurants, and lounges shut some time before midnight, so sleeping on benches at the airport was an even less attractive option. (We couldn’t manage the vending machines, and we weren’t the only ones – after aborting an attempt to buy an item, we got more back than we’d put in.)

By the time we got to the hotel, our formerly lofty opinions of Germany (and Lufthansa) had taken a beating.

The hotel didn’t have a wheelchair, but an enterprising staff member produced an office chair on castors, and there were some slapstick moments negotiating carpets and lift entrances, but overall, it was a welcome return to normality.

The next day, Assomac’s travel team had rerouted us via Emirates, direct to Durban, with Keith in business class, and 48 hours after setting off from the hotel in Milan, we landed.

We can laugh about it now, but speaking for myself, I’m in no hurry to travel overseas again.

Fury over ICLT’s likely closure

Published: 27th Sep 2023
Author: Tony Dickson - S&V Editor

Northampton, UK - A storm of protest over the probable closure of the University of Northampton’s Institute for Creative Leather Technologies (ICLT) is about to break, according to a informed source who has seen correspondence from various associations and graduates of the ICLT and its predecessor courses.

The gist of the protests is that they believe the university’s main stated reason for the probable closure – a drop in student enrolment to unsustainably low numbers – is a situation that could be rectified.
A combined response is likely to be delivered to the university shortly. 

Tags: ICLT

ICLT – last of UK’s leather schools – likely to close

Published: 18th Sep 2023
Author: Tony Dickson - S&V Editor

Northampton, UK - The Institute for Creative Leather Technologies (ICLT), the final incarnation of the combined University of Northampton’s Leather Department and the National Leathersellers’ College, will probably close soon.
Many of Africa’s top tanners studied at one or other of those institutions.

In a letter to Professor Will Wise, who is research lead at the ICLT, but sent to him as president of the Society of Leather Technologists & Chemists (SLTC), University of Northampton (UON) vice chancellor Professor Anne-Marie Kilday wrote that “a new strategy” would be published in October.

She said the UON had “cross subsidised” the ICLT for several years, but that “it has now entered a period of internal consultation to determine the future of leather education and research against a backdrop of a fall in student demand, economic downturn, and rising energy prices”.

She said there had been “declining applications over a number of years”.
“The number of UK leather producers has been in decline, and the largest producers are now China, Brazil, Russia, India and Italy. This has severely impacted the number of domestic students, and has not delivered commensurate international students.
“In recent years, recruitment has also been heavily impacted by Brexit and the loss of a regular flow of students from Italy. Our research in the discipline is world-leading, but research income is not offsetting the overheads of facilities and operational requirements or the costs of teaching dwindling student numbers.

“In October, we will publish a new strategy that includes a framework to improve and enhance our estate to the benefit of staff, students and the wider community. The legacy of the study of leather at UON is valued, and our sincere hope is that we find a practical solution to retain the subject as we move forward. We must however recognise the implications of continuing to cross-subsidise leather education and research.”
She said that “Fashion and Footwear courses at UON will remain, are unaffected by this consultation, and will adapt to any changes in leather provision”. 

Pittards shuts

Published: 11th Sep 2023
Author: Tony Dickson - S&V Editor

UK tannery and glove maker Pittards has closed following failed talks with a prospective buyer, according to a BBC report.

Most of the 135 staff at its Yeovile, Somerset plant have been made redundant.

According to the report, "Administrators are assessing options with regards to its Ethiopian business and are in discussions with local management in this regard". Pittards Ethiopia employs around 900 people. 

Tags: Pittards
Permalink: Pittards shuts
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