Magazine for Textiles, Clothing, Leather and Technology

A snapshot of the current state of the industry emerging from a survey of the first nine months of 2019 conducted by the Confindustria Moda Research Centre for Assocalzaturifici HIGHS AND LOWS OF THE ITALIAN FOOTWEAR INDUSTRY IN 2019: EXPORTS ARE UP (+6.7% BY VALUE) BUT VOLUME OF PRODUCTION IS DOWN (-2.9%) AS ARE HOUSEHOLD PURCHASES (-3.3%)

It has been a year of ups and downs for the Italian footwear industry: 2019 saw a drop in production (-2.9% by quantity over the first nine months of the previous year) and household purchases (-3.3% by quantity), while exports performed well (+6.7% by value). These are the most significant figures to emerge from a note on economic trends in the first nine months of 2019 prepared by the Confindustria Moda Research Centre for Assocalzaturifici. The report reveals the widening gap between the performance of the big brand names and that of the small enterprises producing shoes under their own trademarks, which form the backbone of the country’s footwear-making districts: more than half of the sample surveyed reported lower levels of production in the first nine months of this year than in the same period last year (-2.9% average by volume, but with a much more marked drop in production among smaller businesses).

“The international success of Italian shoes, confirming the appeal of Italian fashions on world markets, has been rescaled by shrinkage in volumes, translating into a drop in production and employment,” explains Assocalzaturifici Chair Siro Badon.

“At this time of low domestic demand, we ought to be patriotic and support Italian footwear makers by buying more Italian shoes. The whole world envies us for the creations of our small shoemaking businesses, but we often underestimate their worth, carried away by our preference for international fashions. The footwear industry needs a new emphasis on youth and innovation. The industry needs to invest in vocational training for the workers of the future, because our companies are going through a hard time, characterised by generational turnover, and, especially, to make use of the innovative business platforms at its disposal. The next Micam, the leading footwear trade fair, in February will introduce a new area called Micam X, an initiative bringing together the most innovative, high-tech proposals for footwear, demonstrating to dealers from all over the world the latest new trends in three important areas: materials, retail and sustainability. Sustainability above all is the key driver for intercepting consumers’ demands and changing lifestyles today. Global markets are of course important to our member companies, but it’s equally important to make sure everyone sits down at the table to play by the same rules. This is why we’re working hard to obtain European approval of legislation introducing obligatory information on origin.

If customers all over the world and the most prestigious fashion brands are willing to pay a premium price for shoes made in Italy, we need to protect this added value. Otherwise the industrial heritage of a crucial sector of the Italian economy will be lost, with very serious consequences for employment in the country.”

There has been no significant improvement in domestic demand since the summer: household purchases were down -3.3% by quantity in the first nine months of the year, or -2.6% by value. The only growing segment is athletic footwear and sneakers (+1.5% by volume and +3.5% in terms of spending). Sales of “classic” shoes were down for both men (by about 10% by volume) and women (-6%, though sales of ankle boots and high boots remained stable). One of the few areas to perform positively was exports, up +6.7% by value thanks to work performed on contract for luxury brands, with a slight drop in terms of quantity (-0.8% in the first eight months of the year, as much as -4.2% in the case of leather shoes) and an average price +7.5% higher. Breaking down the trends by market, there were encouraging signs from Switzerland (+24.2% by value) and France (+9% in terms of both value and volume), which together account for almost a third of the total value of Italy’s footwear exports, while difficulty persisted in exports to Germany (-8.7% by volume), Russia (-18.5%) and the Middle East (-14%), with a -12.8% drop by volume in the Arab Emirates. Exports to the USA were up (+11.6% by value), as were exports to the Far East (+9.2% on the whole). The “China+Hong Kong” aggregate, now the fifth largest export market by value, grew 3.1% by volume and 8.5% in terms of value. The total number of footwear manufacturers in the first nine months of 2019 was 4,357 (148 less than in the previous year, a -3.3% drop), while the number of employees remained practically unchanged at 75,474 (-0.3%, 206 workers less). The period saw significantly increased resort to wage support in the leather industry (+28.3% authorised hours). In the end, people in the business are pessimistic about the future. The majority of those interviewed about their expectations for the coming year did not foresee any growth at all, and practically all of them don’t believe that the measures included in the 2020 Economic and Finance Document will bring any economic benefits for enterprises.