The scenario that emerges from the latest report produced by the Confindustria Moda Study Centre for Assocalzaturifici highlights a sharp slowdown in the Italian footwear sector in the first quarter of 2024, with a contraction in both exports (-9.7% in value and -10.3% in pairs) and turnover (-10.1%), as well as a drop in purchases by Italian families (-1.6% in quantity and -0.7% in expenditure).

 “The customary survey conducted in May among our associates,” says Giovanna Ceolini, President of Assocalzaturifici, “showed a drop in turnover for 68% of the sample, with a not insignificant portion of associates (18%) reporting a contraction of even more than -20%. Moreover, the sentiment of entrepreneurs does not show confidence’.

The report shows that, as far as exports are concerned (to which 85% of domestic production is destined), 51.9 million pairs were sold in the first quarter of 2024 (6 million fewer than in the same months of last year), worth 3.17 billion euro. After a resilient January (at least in terms of value: +1.4%), the trend became more penalising in February (-6.2%), to the point of registering a slump in the order of -20% in March, both in terms of value and pairs.

The analysis by product type shows declines, both in quantity and value, for all sectors. In particular, that of footwear with leather uppers, first in importance with an incidence of 65% on foreign sales in value, shows -8.6% in volume with -7% in value over the first 3 months of 2023.

Among the destinations, as in 2023, the EU markets showed less unfavourable trends (-4.1% in value) than the non-EU markets (down by -15% overall).

In the EU, France and Spain, despite falling in quantity, grew in value (+1.7% and +8.5% respectively in Q1 2023). France, whose figures also include the return flows of production carried out in Italy on behalf of third parties for transalpine luxury brands, confirmed its position as the top destination, both in terms of value and volume (down -4.3%). Exports to Germany fell by more than -10% and to Belgium by -20% in value (with -37.6% in quantity).

Outside the EU, what stands out first of all is the further halving (-53.4%, with -36.7% in volume) of direct flows to Switzerland, which has always been a traditional logistic-distribution hub for fashion multinationals, and has dropped to fourth place in value destinations: most of the transit in the Swiss hubs has been replaced by direct shipments to end markets. 

The growth in exports in value to the Far East (+4.3%) and the Middle East (+14.1%) – where the presence of designer labels is traditionally stronger – the only macro-areas to experience an increase compared to 2023, should also be read in the light of these dynamics. In the Far East, in particular, China (+10.8% in value and +17.8% in quantity) and Hong Kong (+26% in value and +4.9% in volume, but still far from the pre-Covid 2019 pairs) performed well. Japan held up (-0.9%, +3.1% in quantity), while South Korea recorded sharp declines (in the region of -30%).

On the American continent, similar reductions in value affected both the United States (-8.8%) and Canada (-7.2%). The United Kingdom still performed poorly (-6.1% in value).

As regards the countries of the former Soviet bloc, there was a drop in sales in Russia (-22.4% in value and -17.8% in pairs), while Ukraine recovered in value (+21%), but against a -11% drop in volume. On the other hand, the favourable trend continues in Kazakhstan (+4.8% in value and +12.2% in quantity).

Finally, as regards the demographics of companies, at the end of March the number of active companies in Italy dropped to 3,490 (with a negative balance of -74 units, between industry and handicrafts, compared to December 2023, equal to -2.1%), flanked by a -0.8% drop in employees.

Giovanna Ceolini, President of Assocalzaturifici