At the 121st edition of MIPEL exhibition, described by organisers as the most important international event dedicated to leather goods and fashion accessories held at Italy’s Milano Fair from 13 to 15 March, organizers were optimistic about the sector helping drive the Italian economy back to levels of the pre-Corona years.
“A moment of true rebirth and restart of business affairs A great demonstration of confidence by the participating companies and a sign of a gradual rebirth. A strategic moment for the sector.’’, the organisers said.
At the event, talk was of sustainably sourced leather with value for money, long lasting, comfortable yet fashionable ‘‘Made in Italy’’ products leading the trends. The event was revealing the trends for the next season and photography of products were forbidden for fear of design copyright theft.
The new eco-conscience consumer and responsibility for the environment were buzzwords at the event. Yet it was acknowledged that the consumer was now looking for long-lasting products so reworked classic designs were expected to trend next season.
There was no escaping the mention of the post-pandemic and lockdown effect on the industry. One trade expert commented how post-lockdown, the consumer started to look down at their feet (shoes) again after working from home in any footwear. People are dressing up to go out and going to work again, was seen as the driver for the sector.
The footwear industry
Globally, the Italian footwear industry reported a turnover of 12.7 billion euros in 2021, an 18.7 percent increase on 2020 – but still 11 percent lower than two years ago – Confindustria Moda reported2.
Italy’s top 5 partner countries are Switzerland, France, Germany, the United States and China. In the same period Libya bought from Italy only 2.6 million euros – down 8.5 percent compared to the same period of 20201. Italy’s trade exceeded euro 20.00 billion with an 18.22 percent increase in terms of bilateral trade with Libya, Trade Data Monitor figures reveal.
Confindustria figures also reveal that exports to North Africa in 2021 were euro 24.87 million representing 1,247 pairs of shoes. This is an 18.9 percent increase in value and an 18.1 percent increase in quantity between 2020 and 2021.
Confindustria reports that luxury brands are driving exports, but not everyone is seeing a recovery. Almost 2 out of 3 companies are still below pre-Covid levels. Higher raw materials and energy costs are getting in the way of growth. And if getting over the devastating Corona was not bad enough, there is now a major concern about the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
The acceleration of exports in the fourth quarter allowed the footwear industry to close 2021 with the same double-digit increases that had characterised the first half of the year. After the sector’s collapse in 2020, as a result of the lockdowns and restrictions over the two waves of the pandemic, there was a natural rebound effect in the second quarter 2021 followed by a less intense growth trend.
In the preliminary results from the Confindustria Moda Research Centre for Assocalzaturifici, all the main variables saw significant increases in value of between +15 and +20 percent. But the recovery is fragmented and often still not sufficiently fast, which means a significant share of companies have still not returned to 2019 revenue levels, before the pandemic began.
While large international luxury groups have picked up steam and are driving sales for the sector in foreign markets, many small and medium companies have not survived the shock of the crisis. So, an inconsistent situation is concealed by the undeniably overall positive figures for the year that has just ended: starting with the figures for exports which achieved, in value terms, the second highest result of all time (10.3 billion euro), including net of inflation.
The balance of trade surplus is up (+22% between January and November) and is expected to be just under 5.2 billion for the year as a whole.
The outbreak of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is not helping the sector. Italy exported footwear for a total combined value of approximately 317 million euro during 2021 to these two markets. The shortfall on pre-Covid levels (combined sales of 346.4 million euro in 2019) was gradually being eroded (after a combined increase of +9.3% on 2020).
(1)-The Italian Trade Agency (ITA/ICE) Tripoli Office
(2)-The Italian Footwear Industry 2021 Preliminary Results Sectoral note prepared by the Research Centre for Confindustria Moda for Micam.
Libya Herald was invited by the Italian Trade Agency (ITA/ICE) Tripoli Office to cover the MIPEL exhibition. We are thankful to them and the Italian embassy Tripoli for facilitating this visit.