Italian Footwear Industry ‘Remains Cautious’ on Second Half of 2023 Despite Sales Increases in H1

Despite a marked slowdown in the second quarter, the Italian footwear industry closed the first half of 2023 on a positive note, according to the latest data from Confindustria Moda Research Centre for Assocalzaturifici, the national association representing Italian shoemakers.

In the first half of the year, the country’s shoe sector saw a 7.4 percent increase in sales compared to the first half of 2022, as well as a 10.2 percent increase in total value of footwear exports, the report said.

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Giovanna Ceolini, chair of Assocalzaturifici, acknowledged in the report that the widely expected slowdown “finally materialized” in the second quarter of 2023. “The strong rebound of 2021 – after the slump caused by the lockdowns – and the continuation of recovery during 2022 – albeit at an understandably slower pace, as business levels returned to normal – were followed by a marked deceleration, after a promising start to 2023 for most economic variables,” Ceolini said.

A closer look at the report revealed that in the first five months of the year, Italian footwear exports stood at 87.9 million pairs, 6.4 million fewer pairs – and a 6.8 percent decrease – from the same time last year. The average price per pair increased to 62.47 euros, an increase of 18.2 percent.

In the April-May period, after double-digit increases in the previous months, exports, which have always been the sector’s driving force, showed rather stable values (up 1 percent) but a setback in volume (down 14.9 percent).

The report also showed that all the main export destinations recorded increases in value in the first five months. The only exceptions were Switzerland, which recorded a 13.6 percent decline (and a 29 percent decline in terms of number of pairs), the United Kingdom (down 2.6 percent) and Canada (stable at down 0.5 percent, but down sharply in terms of quantity).

As for North America, the report noted that the region is slowing down, falling more than 20 percent in pairs exported to the U.S. and Canada. After experiencing difficulties in both 2021 and 2022, the trend was also negative in the UK (down 2.6 percent in value and down 13.8 percent in quantity).

On the other hand, an encouraging performance was recorded in the Far East, which grew globally by 29.4 percent in value and 7.1 percent in quantity. Positive developments were also recorded in the Arab Emirates (up 37.7 percent in value) and Turkey (with increases of over 80 percent in both volume and value, despite the devaluation of the lira).

China has also seen “very encouraging signs” of growth, with a 20.4 percent increase in export volume and a 43.4 percent increase in export value, where the average price – by far the highest among the main outlet markets for Italian footwear – clearly shows that these figures are linked to the performance of the large luxury brands.

By product category, the report also showed mixed performance in terms of value and a general decline in volume – with the exception of slippers, which grew in volume but decreased in value. Footwear with leather uppers – the leading segment, which accounts for 63 percent of the value of foreign sales – showed an increase close to 13 percent.

Looking ahead, Assocalzaturifici added in its report that expectations remain “very cautious” for the second half of the year, given the general climate of uncertainty and the weakness of many economies worldwide. On average, for the first time since the post-pandemic recovery, the Italian footwear industry expects sales in the third quarter to be down around 2.8 percent compared to the same period last year.

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