1.1 Definition and scope of the study
The appelation "leather" is governed by Decree 2010-29 of January 8, 2010, called the Leather Decree, which states that "The use of the word leather (...) is prohibited in the designation of any material other than that obtained from animal skin by means of tanning or impregnation that preserves the natural form of the skin fibers."
Mainly used in the fields of clothing and leather goods, it is one of the main materials of the decoration, saddlery and shoe industry. It is also used extensively in the manufacture of furniture and book covers, for example. Leather is usually a luxury material, favored by the major brands in the sector. These skins are processed in tanneries for large animals (cows, bulls, buffaloes, etc.) or in megisseries for smaller animals (lambs, goats).
The world market for leather goods is growing and is expected to continue to do so for the next few years. The production (in m2 products) of bovine leather is dominated by China, Latin America and Europe. China also largely dominates the production of sheep, goat and lamb leather.
The European market is dominated by Italy, which has much higher production levels than the rest of its neighbors.
In France, the turnover of the tanneries and megisseries are growing. They export mainly to Italy and import mainly from the United States. However, their number is decreasing and the sector is increasingly concentrated. It has to face a tough international competition as well as an increase in the price of raw materials.
The market is competing with cheap leather imitations, such as skai (registered trademark) made from plastic, or alcantara. All these imitations can be grouped under the name of artificial leather, or imitation leather.
More than just imitations, alternatives to leather are also more environmentally friendly solutions. The leather industry is indeed facing major environmental challenges, due to its high water consumption at different levels of production (from animal husbandry to tanning), the use of chemicals, and the discharge of greenhouse gases from tanneries, and criticism of the animal condition.
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