Yesterday it became official that the French luxury brand Hermés acquire the Tanneries Du Puy from JM Weston. This means that Hermés now owns both the two largest suppliers of calf leather for quality shoes in the world. How this affects other footwear brands which also are purchasing hides from Du Puy to a large extent remains to be seen.
French Hermès owns as you probably already know John Lobb Paris, both the RTW shoe line made in English Northampton and the bespoke part in Paris, plus they of course do a lot of bags and accessories in calf leather. The need for good material, in other words, is really big, and we have seen more and more in recent years that the large companies buy up various tanneries, mainly to ensure that they can have a good supply of good hides when the meat eating in Europe is declining and access to good hides goes down, while demand is increasing. Among other things, Hermès bought Tannerie d’Annonay a few years ago, and in about the same time the EPI Group which owns large shoe manufacturer JM Weston acquired Tanneries Du Puy. Both those tanneries are the largest in the world at the kind of calf hides used for classical quality shoes, and manufacturers from around the world buys hides from the two tanneries, and to some extent it has affected them when the giants have taken over the ownership. Among other things, from D’Annonay it’s been difficult to order smaller bulks, you have been forced to go and buy that in the factory shop in France, and it has also been higher demands for advance payments and other things that made it more difficult especially for smaller players. As a result of these things we’ve seen that various leather wholesalers received a greater role not only for the really small manufacturers, as various independent bespoke shoemakers and others around the world, but also for medium-sized manufacturers of quality shoes, which now go through wholesalers to easily get good material, which often results in some price increases.
How the Hermès purchase of Du Puy affect the rest of the market is still a hard to say, in a way, there is less difference than when the tannery went from being independent to being in the hands of JM Weston. At the same time Hermès now becomes an even more powerful forcewhen it comes to leather supply now that they own both major tanneries, and also has several other smaller tanneries under its umbrella, both as major owner or part owner. In its press release Hermès states they do the purchase mainly to ensure that Du Puy survive and that French jobs are secured (and possible the economy for the EPI, JM Weston and Du Puy haven’t been the best, although I find it hard to believe it was something more serious) but this is obviously just bullshit since what Hermès mainly cares about is having access to enough good material to keep up the level off quality on their products purchased by to a large extent demanding customers. Hermès is doing business, not charity, even if they of course want to be seen in an as good light as possible.