Italian footwear industry sounds alarm bell
Last year the Italian footwear industry suffered a 2% slump in output, affecting jobs too, while the domestic market was troubled and exports grew at a slower rate. Enough to raise questions about the industry's health, while Italian footwear trade show TheMicam is ending in Milan on 15th February.
Italian footwear exports in the January-October 2016 period grew 2.6% in value, as the product mix veered towards more upmarket models. But exporters are facing many thorny issues, according to Assocalzaturifici, the Italian footwear manufacturers' association, which groups together over 700 companies. Export towards Russia and the CIS have for example fallen by 40% in volume and by 50% in value compared to three years ago.
China offers brighter prospects, though Assocalzaturifici lamented the fact that export growth in that direction is now no longer in double figures. Exports to the USA instead lost 3.6% in value, after six years of strong orders. As for the Middle East, its orders slumped by 4.9% in value, and by as much as 15% in volume.
On the domestic front, the Italian footwear industry is having to deal with a sluggish demand, causing sales to decrease by 0.1% in volume and by 2.4% in value. And though in the first quarter 2016 output levels were stable, the year-end shortfall caused a 0.4% decrease in the number of industry jobs, down to 76,744 employees.
"Without an industrial policy to bolster the sector, I do not know how long [the situation] will be sustainable, said Annarita Pilotti, the President of Assocalzaturifici. Italy accounts for over one third of European footwear manufacturing, and the industry's major international names all have production sites there. But, given the current competitive environment, this Italian success story may suffer a severe setback."
"We need structural change and an industrial policy going beyond the scope of the 4.0 national industrial plan," said Pilotti, referring to the plan introduced last September by the Italian government, and lamenting the fact that, so far, the industry's appeals to the authorities have fallen on deaf ears.
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