The owner of a popular seal skin retail store in downtown St. John's says he's looking to open his own processing plant somewhere in the province.

Bernie Halloran, the owner of Always in Vogue, said he wants to open a processing plant, not to cut out the middle man, but to get into the market before it's too late.

Halloran said he thinks there is going to be a large demand for more seal products — despite the ongoing push by animal rights activists against the controversial seal industry.

'My business background just sees things that I'm hoping other people don't see yet, and hopefully we can take it to another level.' - Bernie Halloran

"If it's any indication on the world market that's going on in Newfoundland and Labrador, it's a booming industry and it's going to be, and I feel strongly about it," he said.

"I'm not one-sided. My business background just sees things that I'm hoping other people don't see yet, and hopefully we can take it to another level."

New market opportunities

In fact, Halloran is hoping to open a store in China in the next year.

While some seal products are banned in China — including oil and meat — the skin and fur are not.

"The bottom line with me is, what I see coming, and it's just me — I seem to be alone in this area — but I see an explosion in China. I've been over to China probably in the last two years a dozen times and we have a small factory there now, and the reason we have a small factory in China right now is next year, we're looking to open our first store," said Halloran.

"There's so much wealth in China right now that people have no idea about, and the big thing is what I'm worried about is someone coming over and writing a big cheque for any seal skin that anybody can produce before I can."

Halloran added that if he's successful in bringing seal to the China market, the industry could potentially get a real boost in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The seal products would be more expensive in China, due to a 30 per cent luxury tax that would be applied, but Halloran said he believes the quantity of product he would be able to move would likely make up for it.

Halloran has been looking at the former OCI plant in Port Union to start his production, but no official move has been made yet.