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cseeger

This Art Form Is Going Straight To Hell

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Yes, it's a salacious title but how else can one get eyeballs diverted from the ass grabbing "Show Off" section?   Be that as it may, if you have made it this far then perhaps you're a thinking person.  Welcome.  

The following is a rant about the state of the leather working craft industry.  In my opinion, it's an appalling state of affairs.  Please weigh in with your thoughts.

 

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The other thing that I seem to be the only one who gets this, which means the only one to think about and be pissed off about, concerned about it, would like to do something about it. 

And that my fellow leatherwokring compadres is that our industry is the red headed step child of all the crafts and it's shrinking .

It pains me that the craft I love so much is represented by a company as clueless and as incompetent as Tandy is. I'm specifically referring to their abdication of responsibility as the defacto industry leader. Self interest alone should be motivation enough to take a leadership position in our micro market. But honestly, in the fourteen years I've been working with leather, I cannot think of one single innovative anything that has come out of the Tandy camp. They are the industry leader, but they do nothing to advance the craft. Just the same old boring crap, frozen in time....1964.
By my estimates, our micro craft market here in the US is around $300M year in revenue. That includes all the retailers and the micro tanneries who cater to us and all the handmade goods we make and some of us sell.  


You may not know this since Tandy looms large in our minds as the largest retailer in our micro industry, but Tandy is a tiny company at $83M in revenue. To put that in perspective, the average new car dealership in the United States does about $40M in sales per year. A car lot, for Pete's sakes, is half the size of Tandy. Wrap your mind around that for a moment.

In contrast, The total US crafting industry which we are a part of is...drum roll... a whopping $50 BILLION industry. F I F T Y B I L L I O N U N I T E D S T A T E S D O L L A R S. Are you familiar with the Scrapbooking craft, that frivolous fluffy stationary craft that glues various items to stationary to decorate scrapbooks? That goofy craft is a $1.5 Billion market and that is down from its height of $2.5 Billion a decade ago. But leathercraft can only command $250M? 


Our craft is a useful craft. We actually make stuff that is useful and has purpose, and yet we weigh in at just one sixth the size of a useless, whimsical craft like Scrapbooking? How in the hell is that even remotely possible? And while the US crafting industry is growing and forecasted to continue growing, leathercraft is forecasted to contract 5-10% in the mid- term. 

 

Who, I ask you, is minding the ship here?

 

 

Edited by cseeger

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Meanwhile back at the Show Off section........LOL.............I rarely buy from tandy. the occasional clutch liner now and again. I feel they are geared more to people coming into the craft. I also believe tandy is losing traction in the market place. We lost the Fort Wayne store last year. Which only leaves one store in Indiana. I buy most of my leather needs from Landwerlin's in Indianapolis. They are a forth generation shop catering to shoe cobblers and leather craftsmen. I can buy a better hide from them then the gravel dragged hides tandy is selling at a higher cost. So until they change their attitude about the needs and costs for people like me,  I can not change my attitude about them.

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Thank modern gubment education! Young folks just aren't being taught to use their brains, pretty much anything they can buy in a box and stick to a page is about it for them. An that's what they call crafts! If they cant google it or YouTube it then its far to hard to learn. Sorry to the young folk here, you are the exceptions, and i'm sure i'll hear about it but the facts don't lie, the US was number 1 in education just 30 year ago now lower than 17th globally. Tie that in with the lil black brain tumor causing box they are addicted to in their hand and there you have it.

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7 minutes ago, chuck123wapati said:

Thank modern gubment education! Young folks just aren't being taught to use their brains, pretty much anything they can buy in a box and stick to a page is about it for them. An that's what they call crafts! If they cant google it or YouTube it then its far to hard to learn. Sorry to the young folk here, you are the exceptions, and i'm sure i'll hear about it but the facts don't lie, the US was number 1 in education just 30 year ago now lower than 17th globally. Tie that in with the lil black brain tumor causing box they are addicted to in their hand and there you have it.

Yes Chuck I think your are going to get some push back on it. :rolleyes2:

Chris

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Chuck, you are 110% correct.  I watched a Univ of Wisconsin student walk in front of a bus, against the 'walk' light......driver shuffled a lot of people around on that bus but didn't hit the idiot. 

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You have to admit that to most of the younger generation (several exceptions on this forum) it is so much "COOLER" to program a 3D printer to "craft" something. We as leather enthusiasts are responsible for bringing new practitioners into our craft. There are probably many youngsters who would love to learn, but have no one to teach them. We need to take it upon ourselves to mentor interested young people.

As far as Tandy goes I avoid them unless they have something that nobody else stocks or has in stock. The best way to end Tandy's so called leadership in the marketplace is to take your money elsewhere. It didn't take but one order to convince me that I could buy better leather elsewhere for the same price.

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I am on the opposite end being a youngster. It seems to me that they are very few places or people to learn the craft of the trade. At least in east central US it is. 

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15 minutes ago, akguy59 said:

 There are probably many youngsters who would love to learn, but have no one to teach them. We need to take it upon ourselves to mentor interested young people.

Yes we do!!!!! The educational system has focused so much on disregarding parental knowledge that now only an "Expert" can teach them no longer do they learn from their parents. And the only way to become an expert is through gubment school and buying a college degree. sad but also true. There are exceptions only my opinion folks but the rural areas and ranch kids have the best chance to learn from their folks.

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1 hour ago, sinpac said:

Yes Chuck I think your are going to get some push back on it. :rolleyes2:

Chris

sadly so friend but the stats don't lie. 

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10 minutes ago, klutes said:

I am on the opposite end being a youngster. It seems to me that they are very few places or people to learn the craft of the trade. At least in east central US it is. 

I grew up in Wyoming a state with less than 500,000 people, what I couldn't learn from my folks or grand parents, I learned at the public library, or by trial and error. I now have an extensive library on almost every subject from rug making to welding. My only suggestion is to search out people that do it , like this awesome forum, or grab a book learn from your mistakes and figure it out. The one good thing about the internet is the ability to talk to people of like minds from all over the world. An education is bought , knowledge is learned IMO. I wish you well.

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I am going to take a different track on this one.  I am noticing improvements in Tandy sin e the new CEO has taken over. I think she is really trying to improve product selection and especially in their pricing.  I can now go into the local store and pick up a quart of Barges for the same price as on Amazon.  With my business discount, it is actually cheaper than Amazon.  I saw where they are bringing Angelus paint into the store and have greatly expanded their Fiebings inventory. It appears their push toward their Eco Flo products is backing off. Now if they would just bring Neatlac and their top of the line leather, I would be a happy camper. I am lucky in that I can go down to the store and dig thru a pile of leather and usually find something that will work.  They aren't Barry King or Herman Oak, but at least are trying.  You can go down to the local store on a Saturday morning and see quite a few people seated around tables taking lessons.

 

Edited by terrymac

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The leather that comes out of my shop goes to two types of folks, cowboys and hunters. Both groups are like jackalopes, everyone knows what they are but nobody sees them. My customer base is pretty small and most of them buy from the big stores or on the interweb, not a lot want to have something custom made. A few like and want custom goods and don't mind paying for them and that's who I sell to. The saddle, tack, chap, and gun leather tooled or stamped buyers are an awful small portion of society but it's what I want to make and it's who I like doing business with. I have helped several youngsters get started as a hobby but as they've grown up life got in the way... Perhaps our craft just isn't what folks want in this disposable, plastic, one use world...?

 

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I believe also that Tandy is trying to improve and become better in the leather business, some now have Cobra machines on display to try and you can order from Tandy,  one of their reps told me they were looking into trying to get Herman Oak leather.          Tandy started as a beginners leather supply and seems to have never got away from that, hopefully they will change there ways in the near future if for nothing else the stores are in a lot of medium sized cities so one can usually get to one without to far of a drive.  As far as teaching younger beginners, I enjoy showing anyone that is interested in fact I have done several tooling classes at a Tandys free of charge, I don’t charge anyone and don’t get paid to do it , I believe leathercraft can be a life long hobby as I have been fortunate enough to have enjoyed it for close to 60 years.

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5 hours ago, sinpac said:

Meanwhile back at the Show Off section........LOL............

Hahaha..... a thinking person and funny.  I like you already.  :banana:

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17 minutes ago, Rhale said:

 As far as teaching younger beginners, I enjoy showing anyone that is interested in fact I have done several tooling classes at a Tandys free of charge, I don’t charge anyone and don’t get paid to do it , I believe leathercraft can be a life long hobby as I have been fortunate enough to have enjoyed it for close to 60 years.

Thanks man...that's exactly what is needed.  kudos to you

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Tandy is called the Leather Factory in Canada, but other than that it's pretty much the same.  I would buy the odd hide there, if I was in a pinch and the price was right.  Recently though, they moved away from selling hides by square footage, and just put a flat rate sticker on each type of leather, regardless of the size.  And the prices went through the roof.  They used to have a wholesale pricing level, which technically, they still sort of do, but it's like a dime off retail. Not a great incentive to buy. Their hardware is overpriced, overpackaged, and geared toward the user who makes one belt a year.  They've become my absolute last choice, in pretty much any circumstances.  It's sad, because the staff in my local store, in Mississauga, are great.  

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Is it any wonder the skill and trade is declining, its like going back 100 years to the average school leaver who has spent their lives learning high tech and fast moving skills

You can break down the market into a few area's

  1. People on this forum most likely hobby or self employed making such exotic items like Belts, Wallets, Card holders and the odd bag and doing the same things time and time again with some variations.
  2. People who are basically artists where the main part is tooling to show their skills as artists and get paid well for their skill

Then the professionals

  1. A few companies who mass produce products for both the low, medium and top end ranges of goods
  2. The saddle makers and associated equipment, highly skilled and trained but little room for inventing something new
  3. Shoe, car and aircraft industry highly skilled but mainly repetitive work on standard range of items
  4. Clothing industry

So Tandy has taught many people their skills, made equipment for these people and supplied a wide range of goods, but like all companies is only in business to make a profit

There is a market for leather goods, but few will make enough money to compete on wages with the newer taught skills, as a full time job

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May I suggest this thread be moved to Leatherwork Conversation? The Off Topic forum is for just that - discussions other than leatherwork, and posts here don't show up in the 'recent posts' column. I think this is a discussion that needs a broader audience.

Tandy has its faults, but I got my start with them, and had an awesome teacher. Their free lessons that go with the purchase of a beginner's kit are a very valuable resource for people starting out in this craft. And I have found I can get decent leather there, but I live close enough to a store to be able to shop in person.

I like that they have expanded their line to include Angelus paints, which previously were hard to find in Canada. Getting stuff shipped from the States if you live north of the border is often prohibitively expensive. I will keep supporting Tandy until they give me enough reasons not to. Some of the staff members aren't very knowledgeable, but there always seems to be at least on person in the store who can answer any questions I have. If they can't I come here instead... B)

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I wonder if this is relevant to the discussion;

Back in summer 2016 I was asked by a local Arts & Crafts and Local Development authority to run basic leather work classes. They'd done painting, pottery, and other similar things and now thought of leather, mainly cos the person in charge of the scheme knew me.

I'm no teacher, so with a special experienced tutor type person we worked out a plan. Three classes, over three successive Saturdays for a real basic introductory course, then three more 'advanced' classes over the next three Saturdays. People were to sign up for the first 3, then if they wanted they could sign up for the next 3. Each session was to be about 4 hours, 11.30 to 15.30 approx.  The cost of the 3 basic sessions was to be £15 per person for all 3 sessions, it was being subsidised by the local authority.

Flyers and adverts put out. We had 120 or so enquiries within about a week, which is very good for Mid-Ulster, or anywhere in Ulster. 24 or so filled in the booking form. 2 weeks before the first Saturday we had 16 people booked and paid up. 

First Saturday we had 8 people turn up. 4 left at the lunch break and never came back. The remaining 4 finished that first Saturday, they came the second Saturday but not the third Saturday. I still had a few people on that last Saturday, the educator, her daughter, her brother, who dropped by to say 'hello' and the manageress of the community facility we were using.

As part of the package I had made up tool kits. Each person attending got one of these to keep. In the first sessions the people were to make a coin purse and a draw-string bag. 6 tool kits went away. 2 were returned to me later. I've now got about 14  tool kits left over, taking up space in my storage unit. I'm not out money directly on these, I'm out my fees, but the authority and I came to an arrangement, some fee money and the tool kits in payment.

Thats my experience of trying to teach some leather craft to the people of Ulster

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Well done for trying anyway Fred

Maybe a youth organisation could use the spare kits

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I made enquiries in that direction - answer was a big No. Not even if they were free to them

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On 5/27/2020 at 10:38 PM, Sheilajeanne said:

May I suggest this thread be moved to Leatherwork Conversation?

Moved

Tom

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Thank you, Tom!

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G'Day, 

my 2 cents worth, but due to the increase in the price of opinions, its now  5 cents worth  :) 

This is an old story, but I have only bought from Tandy when there are specials , as in, when they are actually cheaper than my other  regular suppliers. But got so frustrated with their ' club discounts' .  You'd see a " special" , you click on the item....with 3 different prices !!! Total let down !!   They did away with that. Wholesale?  B2B ? forget it !!!   But now there isn't a Tandy outlet  in Australia .  They should have opened up in  the CBD Perth  Western Australia( not the east) .  They might have done a little bit  better.   While Tandy have done great things getting newbies interested   in the art of leather over many years,  their business model sucked !! 

I'm happy to teach this dying  art . I'd have customers come to me  asking me if I'd teach. More than happy to for free . They can come to my workshop, they can use my tools and leather scraps etc.  They are full of enthusiasm,  I'd give them my contact details....thats where their interest ends, they never follow up  .  Thats when I get  a little bit  p*ssed off !!  I had to educate a  few young high school kids at my stall once as to where leather comes from ... I was gobsmacked !!!!  One of my school excursions  at that age  was going through an abattoir . (old  Albany abb.  for you west Aussies) .  Can't say I haven't tried. 

On 2/15/2020 at 7:53 AM, terrymac said:

Now if they would just bring Neatlac and their top of the line leather, I would be a happy camper.

Hear hear !! Love to see Neatlac return  :)  Substitutes are no match. 

On 2/15/2020 at 5:14 AM, chuck123wapati said:

Thank modern gubment education! Young folks just aren't being taught to use their brains,

I second that !!! Everything here in Oz is all based around mining & construction,agriculture, real estate ....or sitting on ya butt in a office.  The ' traditional '  trades don't ever get a mention. 

 

On 5/27/2020 at 4:18 PM, chrisash said:

People on this forum most likely hobby or self employed making such exotic items like Belts, Wallets, Card holders and the odd bag and doing the same things time and time again with some variations.

That would be me :)  It started as a hobby, but now  a business. Making not just regular items, but assorted custom leather goods that can't be bought in a regular shop or online , but also sticking to traditional ( Al Stohlman)  methods. 

That'll be 5 cents please !! 

HS 

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I dont think Tandy has the same standing here in the UK or if it has it doesnt show on my radar.  I remember once I had a look at their website,  lasted all of two minutes and left laughing.  Folk who are serious about their hobby or job use Abbey saddlery.    

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