Dozens of leather shops close down in Istanbul as sector loses Russian market

Dozens of leather shops close down in Istanbul as sector loses Russian market

Ceyhun Kuburlu-ISTANBUL
Dozens of leather shops close down in Istanbul as sector loses Russian market

Some 40 percent of the shops in Istanbul’s leather exporting district, Zeytinburnu, have been closed down, leaving 3,000 people jobless, as the sector faces the risk to lose its largest market, Russia. The owners of the remaining shops have said their products were seized in Russia. 

“The dream is over here. Dozens of leather shops have been closed in Zeytinburnu as the leather exports declined 80 percent,” said the head of the Leather Craftsmen and Tradesmen Committee of the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, Nurettin Aydın. 

A member of the Istanbul Chamber of Industry General Assembly, Hüseyin Demirci, said almost half of the businesses in Zeytinburnu were closed down. 

According to businesspeople in Zeytinburnu, there had been more than 600 leather apparel sellers there until one year ago. 

“Nothing happened overnight. Due to the economic problems in Russia, we had already seen a decline in the demand for our products. We had to slash the prices for our Russian customers. While we had believed that we could soon overcome this crisis, the jet crises erupted between Turkey and Russia. It is now almost impossible to sell products to Russia. There are a few Turkish companies that export leather to this country through Russia, but some others, which have tried to export goods through Bulgaria, Romania and Azerbaijan, face losses. None of us can charge our receivables from Russia. Besides, millions of dollars-worth of our products were seized there,” said a businessman. 

‘Dream over’

Aydın said the sector enjoyed “dream-like” days in Russia, but this is now over. 

“We had built a highly tolerant trade line with Russia the last 25 years, but these ties are about to end now. Russia enabled us to make business in easiest way there… All of these end now, and the leather sector has been one the worst affected from the crisis with Russia,” he added. 

Demirci said over 3,000 people in the sector have recently lost their jobs due to the serious decline in business. 

“It was quite difficult to find an available shop to rent in Zeytinburnu until two years ago, but dozens have closed their doors now. All of our ties were torn down in one night,” said a shop owner in Zeytinburnu, who has been in the sector for the last 25 years. 

Another shop owner, Kadir Erdoğan, said their shop was seized in Sochi after the jet crisis had erupted. 

“We had $60,000 worth of goods in the shop. We wanted to sell these products to other shops, but we couldn’t as nobody accepted our products. A hot line was launched to notify [the government about] businesses selling Turkish goods. We left all of our products there,” he said, adding that most of their products appeal to Russians and they cannot sell them to Europeans, who have a different taste. 

The owner of Mis Deri, Hayrettin Ehlimanoğlu, said they had to close their production studio after the crisis broke out with Russia, firing 360 people. 

“We have discounted all of our prices; now we sell a $300 jacket for $100. Business is so bad that we’ll close our shop in the Laleli district,” he added. 

Turkey’s leather exports declined to $233 million in 2015 from around $438 million in 2013. Turkey exported over $500 million worth of leather in 2013.