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Quaker City Hide Company Inc: Working together through Thick and Thin
Quaker City Hide Company Inc. (QCH) is nothing if not nimble. The company was established in 1876 and is currently run by the fourth generation of the Sternfeld family, who take pride in leveraging modern technologies and an old-fashioned work ethic to find success in the global market. Above all, the Sternfeld family isn’t afraid to take risks. “It’s harder than ever to compete, but we’re not afraid to position ourselves in a good spot and find the right agents and products to be successful,” asserts Jeff Sternfeld, president and owner.
Today, QHC is based out of Wyncote, Pennsylvania, where the company’s close-knit staff orchestrates the trade of raw and semi-finished animal hides, primarily calfskins, sowskins and deerskins to clients around the world. Almost all of QHC product comes from North American producers, but the company sells the bulk of its wares to clients in Asia, mainly China, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam and to Western Europe and Mexico to a lesser degree.
In 1983, QHC took a chance and expanded its product scope to include U.S.A.-made pet products, primarily novelty rubber toys and farm fresh catnip products. Though the products account for a minority of QHC’s total volume, the additional offerings helped the company expand its domestic presence.
Even with 136 years of experience, QHC relies on a trustworthy network of contacts around the globe to ensure that all shipments arrive on time and as promised. QHC purchases product from a handful of slaughter houses and hide processors in North America and collaborates with agents in Holland and around the world to overcome language barriers and find buyers.
Of course, as a commodities trader, QHC saw a sharp drop in business following the economic downturn and through 2009, but as a company with four generations of experience behind it, the QHC team stepped up to the plate and tackled the problem head-on. “We had a really rough six months where clients walked away from contracts and financing became increasingly difficult to obtain, but we were able to reposition our products with the help of our long-time agents and agent customers,” admits Sternfeld.
QHC’s Vice President John Victor was also invited to present a talk with David Peters of DLP Advisors and Mike Larson of Tyson Food Inc. on the benefits of using U.S.-produced hides at the 2009 All China Leather Exposition (ACLE). QHC was invited as a member of the U.S. Hide Skin & Leather Association, a trade organization whose membership spans the entire skins and hides industry from meat packers, hide processors, brokers, dealers and exporters.
The ACLE event was established in 1998 to provide businesses around the globe with an entry point to the Chinese leather market and QHC’s 2009 seminar provided a regional overview of U.S. producers, the cost-effectiveness and quality consistency of various preparation techniques contrasted with alternative origin products, to position the products as higher quality and premium items in the marketplace. The seminar was also presented and well-received at events in Vietnam and India.
Set for Success
In addition QHC has no warehouses or shipping facilities to maintain as everything is shipped directly in containers from the producers to the buyers and the lack of overhead enabled QHC to keep costs competitive despite a significant drop in commodity prices worldwide. “I’ve been in the industry since 1967 and the reality is that markets just drop overnight, so we don’t worry so much about it anymore,” reflects Sternfeld.
Simultaneously, the QHC looked to new products and markets for growth. QHC is currently in the early stages of establishing contacts and broker relationships in India, where Sternfeld says progress is slow but steady. “We have offered raw hides for many years, but we recently started representing a product produced to a semi-tan state, which has been gaining momentum,” says Sternfeld.
QHC is already beginning to see the signs of a full recovery on its way and with the help of the U.S. Hide Skin & Leather association, the company will be able to increase its market presence worldwide and position itself for long-term growth. In fact, Sternfeld expects to see the company grow by at least 10 percent in the coming year, but in the greater scheme, it will be Quaker City Hide Company Inc.’s enthusiasm for calculated risk-taking and flexibility that will foster the company’s growth through thick and thin.