Leather has long been an important part of Texas industry, but U.S. hide prices are down sharply –about 40 percent lower than last fall. In part, that’s because of changing fashion. Consumers are currently preferring ankle-high boots over knee-high versions – but a Fort Worth leather maker is blaming something that happened on the West Coast earlier this year.
Jamie Zitnik, is the president of Texpac Hide & Skin, Ltd. in Fort Worth. Zitnik is an eighth generation hide producer, but he says that this has been his worst year so far, since the beginning of the great recession.
On the downturn in business:
“I wouldn’t point it at one thing only. As you mentioned there was a tidal change in fashion that we saw coming already last year. The problem was exasperated though by the West Coast port strike slowdown.”
On how Zitnik lost business:
“[China] couldn’t get hides from Texas or anywhere else in the states and so they started sourcing in Europe and other parts of the world.”
On what Zitnik is doing in the meantime:
“At this point all you can do is watch the market go down, wait until it gets to a point where the prices are attractive for overseas buyers – specifically Chinese and Korean buyers again – and wait for them to come back into the market because the prices work for them.”
On how shoe manufacturers reacted to the downturn:
“The shoe companies, for the most part, dropped the amount of leather that they were putting into their boots and handbags – especially on the women’s fashion side – because they were seeing the high prices.”