An overview of the British Leather Industry
The British leather industry encompasses all stages of production from production of raw materials to point of sale of finished products to the consumer. The direct supply chain extends across tanners and manufacturers of leather goods, including handbags, luggage, accessories, footwear, garments, upholstery etc., and wider to traders, major brands and retailers.
The value of this supply chain in export terms was nearly £1.5 billion in 2015, up 21.9% from 2011. This figure does not include domestic sales of leather and leather products or exports of products incorporating leather as a non-defining component, e.g. leather used in automotive and upholstery and as such, the value of the British leather industry to the UK economy is greater still.
The industry also employs approximately 8,400 workers, with 1,300 in leather manufacture, 2,600 in leather goods manufacture, 4,300 in the footwear manufacture and 200 in apparel manufacture, across a range of enterprises from micro- to large-sized.
The success of the British industry is predicated on the superior quality and innovation of the leathers it produces. This is reflected in its customers, which are globally recognised high end brands associated with quality products. They include household names such as Nike, Berghaus, Oakley and Clarkes, high end luxury goods manufacturers such as Dunhill, Gucci, Mulberry and Burberry, and quality shoe manufacturers, including the renowned men’s shoe makers based in Northampton, such John Lobb, Edward Green and Church’s.
The UK tanning industry also produces high performance and specification upholstery leathers used in luxury automotive brands, such as Aston Martin, Rolls Royce, Jaguar Landrover and AMG Mercedes, by airlines such as BA and Lufthansa and even on the Royal Yacht Britannia.
Many of the brands using British Leather are also based in the UK. Globally-recognised, prestige brands such as Mulberry, Burberry, Aston Martin and John Lobb, are manufacturing British products incorporating British leather and building on a long-standing heritage of quality and performance.
The UK also remains a centre of excellence for education and research in leather; the Institute for Creative Leather Technology at the University of Northampton is recognised as the world-leader in provision of higher education in leather science and technology. There is also a strong heritage sector with the internationally-renowned Museum of Leathercraft and Leather Conservation Centre, also located in Northampton.