United Kingdom and Turkey: two countries and two footwear and leather goods markets that are very different and in some respects distant from each other, which nevertheless find the biannual appointment with Expo Riva Schuh & Gardabags crucial and indispensable in terms of information and business. We spoke to Lucy Reece Raybould of British Footwear Association and Guven Karaca of IDMIB.

Market and future prospects

Lucy Reece Raybould of British Footwear Association, states that United Kingdom is recovering from the pandemic and is progressively returning to pre-Covid levels, however the problems with Brexit, shipments, supplies of materials and the consequent increase in prices are leading many companies to be cautious about growth expectations for the rest of 2022 and for 2023: “We have already seen 10-15% price increases by most companies and are expected at least 5-10% of further increases in the second half of 2022 and in the spring of 2023”.

Also in Turkey, the return to normality and the reopening of the markets have led to a recovery in the sector: “The leather goods and leather products sector was one of the most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, with the easing of restrictions and the reopening of borders, the trend of the sector’s foreign trade has recovered positively – says Guven Karaca of IDMIB. He continues: “In the period January-March 2022, exports of leather goods and leather products from Turkey increased by 27% compared to the same period of the previous year and reached US $ 503 millions, beating all the export records of the first three months. In particular, if we consider the footwear sector, the Turkish footwear and accessories industry reached a record export figure of over US $ 1 billion in 2021. In the first three months of 2022, the share of this product group of the total exported Turkish leather products reached 65.2%. During this period, US $ 327.9 millions were exported to the Turkish footwear sector. Footwear exports increased by 22.2% compared to the same period of the previous year. As an association, our goal for the Turkish leather goods and leather goods sector is to exceed US $ 2 billions by the end of 2022”.

Most requested products and new trends

Speaking of which types of products are most in demand and which are, in perspective, new future trends, Lucy Reece Raybould (BFA) states that the return to normality with the celebration of parties, weddings and other ceremonies, has led to an increase in the demand for formal and elegant footwear and leather goods. At the same time, also the sports and outdoor sector recorded significant growth, which began during the pandemic and has continued to the present day.

“In the second half of 2021 and the first half of 2022, many companies have experienced the highest growth in the sector in years. Also comfort is an overall and very significant trend. Consumers are looking for the same comfort, long appreciated in home slippers and sneakers, even in footwear and formal wear. Lastly, also sustainability is a global trend that has influenced the accessories sector. This is leading the industry to take many different directions: from materials to production procurement, from messaging to end of life products. As BFA we have developed a working group enabling members to meet in order to share knowledge and discuss the best solutions to face the new challenges related to sustainable development”.

Sustainability and ‘green’ products are also at the centre of the Turkish market’s interests, as confirmed by Guven Karaca (IDMIB): “The leather and leather products industry must see the ‘green’ transformation as an opportunity and act accordingly. As in most global industries, leather producers also have to deal with the potential impact of their action on the surrounding environment, moving towards responsible production aimed at reducing the amount of energy, water and chemicals used, as well as the amount of solid waste, waste water and air emissions. The footwear sector has an advantage in this respect: since shoe production does not generate a lot of waste, it can be rated as eco-friendly. Moreover, this type of production is easily adaptable to the consumer’s needs and requests. Leather is a sustainable product in itself, as it derives from food waste. The motto of the near future, not only for our sector, should be ‘produce without consuming’”.

What is the direction of trade?

Both Lucy Reece Raybould and Guven Karaca state that online sales have taken off in their respective markets after the advent of the pandemic. However, it is interesting to note how Lucy Reece Raybould points out that “Consumers are also becoming increasingly demanding about the performance of online retail sites. Schuh (schuh.co.uk) is one of the ‘beacons’ of the market in the UK, capable of pushing interaction boundaries with consumers and reducing the gap between the online and in-store shopping experience. Also other retailers such as Dune with Lerins are making a difference, launching sustainable brands or including significant vegan and sustainable options as part of their offer, such as Hotter”.

Guven Karaca of IDMIB, instead, points out: “Digital platforms today are inevitably more important than in the past. In this sense, I am proud to affirm that we are the Association that created Turkey’s first international project of digital competitiveness. With this new project, we wanted to strengthen the digital infrastructures of our export-oriented companies and increase their digital marketing capabilities. We are also increasing our efforts in this direction by organising seminars, training courses and consultancy. In parallel, as an Association we have implemented our digital B2B platform www.turkishshoes.com already in 2021, for exporting companies operating in the footwear sector. We also have another specific platform for the luggage, leather clothing and tannery sectors, where companies have the opportunity to get in touch with foreign buyers interested in their product. From 2021 onwards, the number of registered buyers increased reaching 2,523 from 147 countries, while 187 exporting companies are currently present on the platform with 2,915 products. We are working to implement our B2B platform dedicated to footwear turkishshoes.com, with the idea of ​​including the sector of the footwear accessories industry already in the next period. All this does not in any way mean that we are investing only in digital. Traditional B2B and face-to-face meetings remain fundamental sales channels. And since it is important for the buyer to get in touch with the right company and vice versa, we worked on the VIP Buyer Delegation project, which aims to organise B2B meetings in the structures of our exporting companies by inviting to our country foreign key buyers like Bohoo Group from England and El Corte Ingles from Spain.

Expectations on the next Expo Riva Schuh & Gardabags

“BFA firmly believes in the business potential of participating in Expo Riva Schuh & Gardabags – states strongly convinced Lucy Reece Raybould. After the long Covid hiatus, we are finally happy to be physically back at the event alongside many other UK-based footwear companies. Trade shows are very important to boost the sector and develop new products and trends. No doubt that getting in touch with online companies and seeing new trends has its validity, but nothing can replace human contact and the possibility of seeing and touching a product in person, discussing its characteristics and evaluating possibile steps to be taken”. For his part, Guven Karaca (IDMIB) states that, as an association, promoting exports of the Turkish product and favour the affirmation of Turkish companies beyond national borders is one of the main objectives. In this sense, one of the privileged tools to obtain this result is to participate in international events like the Riva Schuh fair. “Expo Riva Schuh is one of the most important international fairs for volume footwear, with exhibitors from 38 different countries and numerous visitors from over 100 countries around the world. For this reason, it is an appointment that we closely follow and on which we focus to discover new markets for the Turkish footwear sector”.

Guven Karaca – IDMIB
Lucy Reece Raybould – British Footwear Association