At the 121st edition of MIPEL, described by organizers as the most important international event dedicated to leather goods and fashion accessories held at the Italian Fair in Milan from March 13-15, organizers were optimistic about to the sector that would help bring the Italian economy back to levels of the pre-Corona years.
“A real moment of rebirth and restarting business A fine demonstration of confidence from the participating companies and the sign of a gradual rebirth. A strategic moment for the sector,” said the organizers.
The event was about sustainably sourced leather with good value for money, durable, comfortable and fashionable “Made in Italy” products, at the forefront of trends. The event revealed next season’s trends and product photography was prohibited for fear of design copyright theft.
The new eco-conscious consumer and responsibility for the environment were the key words of the event. Yet it was recognized that the consumer was now looking for sustainable products, so reworked classic designs were to be in style next season.
It was impossible to escape the mention of the post-pandemic and lockdown effect on the industry. A trade expert has commented on how after the lockdown the consumer started looking at their feet (shoes) again after working from home in any shoe. People dress up to go out and return to work, was seen as the driving force behind the industry.
The shoe industry
Globally, the Italian footwear industry recorded a turnover of 12.7 billion euros in 2021, an increase of 18.7% compared to 2020 – but still 11% less than two years ago – reported Confindustria Moda2.
The 5 main partner countries of Italy are Switzerland, France, Germany, the United States and China. During the same period, Libya bought from Italy only 2.6 million euros, a decrease of 8.5% compared to the same period of 20201. Italy’s trade topped €20.00 billion with an 18.22% increase in bilateral trade with Libya, Trade Data Monitor figures show.
Confindustria figures also reveal that exports to North Africa in 2021 were €24.87 million representing 1,247 pairs of shoes. This is an increase of 18.9% in value and 18.1% in quantity between 2020 and 2021.
Confindustria reports that luxury brands are driving exports, but not everyone is seeing a recovery. Nearly 2 in 3 companies are still below pre-Covid levels. Rising raw material and energy costs are holding back growth. And if overcoming the devastating corona was not enough, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is now a major concern.
The acceleration in exports in the fourth quarter allowed the footwear industry to end 2021 with the same double-digit increases that had characterized the first half. After the sector collapsed in 2020, due to lockdowns and restrictions on both waves of the pandemic, there was a natural rebound effect in the second quarter of 2021 followed by a less intense growth trend.
In the preliminary results of the Confindustria Moda Research Center for Assocalzaturifici, all the main variables experienced significant increases in value between +15 and +20%. But the recovery is fragmented and often still not fast enough, meaning a significant share of businesses have still not returned to 2019 revenue levels, before the pandemic began.
While the major international luxury groups have grown in size and are driving sales in the sector on foreign markets, many small and medium-sized companies have not survived the shock of the crisis. Thus, an incoherent situation is masked by the undeniably generally positive figures of the year which has just passed: starting with the figures for exports which achieved, in value terms, the second highest result of all time (10 .3 billion euros), including net of inflation.
The trade balance surplus is up (+22% between January and November) and should be slightly below 5.2 billion over the year as a whole.
The outbreak of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine does not help the sector. Italy exported footwear with a combined total value of around €317 million in 2021 to these two markets. The shortfall compared to pre-Covid levels (combined sales of €346.4 million in 2019) has gradually eroded (after a combined increase of +9.3% compared to 2020).
(1)-Italian Trade Agency (ITA/ICE) Tripoli Office
(2)-The Italian footwear industry 2021 Preliminary results Sector note prepared by the Confindustria Moda Research Center for Micam.
The Libya Herald was invited by the Tripoli office of the Italian Trade Agency (ITA/ICE) to cover the MIPEL exhibition. We are grateful to them and to the Italian Embassy in Tripoli for facilitating this visit.