During the past 18 months, businesses have reinvented themselves to tackle a global pandemic but Packer Leather, one of the oldest and most respected family businesses in the Moreton Bay Region, has just celebrated 130 years of operation and for them ‘digging deep’ is nothing new.
World wars, the Great Depression, the Global Financial Crisis, a factory relocation and new technologies and processes to match an overseas market has built resilience and fostered an open-minded approach with the six generations of the family leading the Packer Leather business based at Narangba.
Packer Leather’s Chairman of the Board and fourth generation family member Lindsay Packer has taken time to reflect this week on his 60 years with the company and recently shared some of the pivotal moments with his 115 staff when they gathered to celebrate this important milestone.
“When Packer Leather started in 1891, we were essentially two export businesses in one – wool scouring and a tannery. We were using horse drawn carriages to move sheepskins and wool to market and we were even laying wool out on the grass to dry as we had no driers at that stage,” Lindsay says.
“It was a very labour-intensive operation, but it was an exciting time exporting scoured wool and leather. Even at such an early stage of the business, we were selling to these global markets.
“In 2021, we have completely transformed to be a very sophisticated and modernised business that delivers high performance leathers to a worldwide market using state-of-the-art technology and being committed to a minimal environmental footprint.”
There have been some significant milestones in Packer Leather’s story including the wool scour closing in 1965, due to market conditions, the tannery becoming the main source of income and the government resuming 14 acres of the factory’s land in 1967 which resulted in its relocation to Narangba.
“When we left Chermside, there were seven other larger tanneries and Packer Leather was the smallest but today we are the only one left in Queensland,” Lindsay explains.
Fourth generation family member and Lindsay’s brother Graham Packer joined the company in 1974 as International Marketing Director and was responsible for developing the leather export markets.
“After a visit from a Japanese delegation to our factory in 1980 and their keen interest in our products, I headed to Japan for the first time and this was the beginning of years of building important international relationships face to face – many lasting over 20-30 years,” Graham says.
“We worked hard building credibility for our brand with companies in Japan, Germany, South Korea and the United States and soon all were enamoured with uniqueness of Kangaroo leathers providing one of the strongest and yet lightest natural leathers available.”
“Packer Leather’s point of difference is not just our delivery of high-quality leathers, but we have built an amazing reputation for a business that could be trusted and are committed to the very best environmental practices.”
When asked for top business tips to pass on to younger generations, Lindsay says you need to surround yourself with good people as it is impossible to think that you can do it all yourself.
“I have been lucky to work with many members of my family - and staff that are like my family - over the years and having that support and trust has meant that we could negotiate even the hardest of challenges,” Lindsay says.
“In the ‘60s I was lucky enough to have a German tannery engineer working with us and he took me under his wing. He was always so innovative – constantly looking at different ways of doing things and challenging our thinking.
In 1978 – at the same time Graham was forging international export markets – our tannery engineer took me to Europe and introduced me to new technologies and opportunities which greatly helped us modernise our own factory and keep us competitive in a world market.”
Packer Leather produces leather for many well-known high-performance footwear brands, motorcycle gloves, kookaburra cricket balls and Sherrin AFL footballs - to name a few.
There is also a masterplan being developed to capture the history of this unique business and also to develop new a new business arm for the next generation.
“Completed in stages over the next 10-15 years, we will build a museum on the factory site, a ‘makers space’ and a develop a tourism offering where people can get a sense of how the processes and product has changed over the years,” Lindsay says.
Lindsay and Graham are excited about the future and while it will bring a whole new set of challenges, Packer Leather has been built on resilience, experience and determination and they feel confident in the team to take Packer Leather to the next stage of development.
The core team ready to take on this next stage includes David Packer - Managing Director, Andrew Luke - General Manager and Technical Director, Susan Packer - Logistics and Sales Manager, Mark Packer - Planning Manager, Mark Hourigan – Direct Sales, Steve Porter – Chief Financial Officer, Clint Groves – Technical Manager, and Clive Curtin Chief Fitter and Paul Gyatt – Plant Engineer.
For more information about Packer Leather, visit packerleather.com.au