“International trade growth is slowing but our exports are up in a positive cycle”

World trade is slowing, with political and economic turbulence emerging on many markets as well as uncertainty regarding a protectionist turn by certain world leaders, but the footwear, leather-goods and tanning machinery industry has delivered yet another positive year.

“If we can take some creditsays Gabriella Marchioni Bocca, ASSOMAC President it is for the fact that, despite all the uncertainty, our sector has managed to hold its ground. With world trade witnessing a slowdown in growth rates, footwear, leather-goods and tanning machinery has registered extremely positive levels in all sectors. This is an indication of just how competitive we are but also of a structural change in the markets and we must not be left behind.”

First the figures. Data processed by the Ufficio Studi of ASSOMAC, the Italian Association of Manufacturers of Footwear, Leather-Goods and Tanning Technology, show that the 2016 turnover recorded a further +7.2% compared with the previous year, reaching Euro 625 million. As ever, sales are primarily export-driven (approx. 75% of turnover), totalling almost Euro 467 million (+8.2% compared with 2015) against imports for just over Euro 33 million, bringing the trade balance for the sector to a net revenue of more than Euro 433 million.

Italy’s tanning, footwear and leather-goods machinery industry 

  2016 2015  % change  2016/2015
Companies 240 240 0,00
Employees 4.100 4.100 0,00
Production (million Euros) 625,00 583,00  +7,20
Exports (million Euros) 466,98 431,60 +8,20
Imports (million Euros) 33,15 33,31 -0,48
Trade balance (million Euros) 433,83 398,29 +8,92

Fonte: Elaborazione Ufficio Studi Assomac

“Our growth has come successfully through an obstacle course of market difficulties but there the positive trend has been evident for the past five years – continues the ASSOMAC President. Compared with 2012, the last year our exports fell following the global recession, foreign sales have grown by 38.4%, a substantial recovery if we consider growth rates in the Western economies and the Italian one, in particular. The most positive aspect is the fact that this year’s growth has been virtually across the board: nearly all sectors and market areas are growing. Our companies have managed to find a competitive edge within the specificities of each market.”

Tanning, footwear and leather-goods machinery exports
(millions of Euros)

  2016 2015  % change 2015/2014
Tanning machinery 155,96 142,51   +9,44
Traditional footwear machinery  109,43 107,16 +2,12
Synthetic machinery  45,68 50,75  -10,00
Leather goods machinery 45,27 25,43 +78,02
Machinery parts  89,39 83,38 +7,21
Other machinery and moulds 21,25 22,37 -5,00
Total 466,98 431,60 +8,20

Source: ASSOMAC - Ufficio Studi

The two principal areas of machinery for tanning and for traditional footwear have seen exports rise by 9.4% and 2.1% respectively, while the figure for leather-goods machinery has increased considerably thanks to certain specific contracts, almost taking it to fourth place on the exports table. Only manmade-footwear machinery (rubber and sports) has recorded an arrest although this is more than compensated for by the other areas. Machinery parts, for example, record a figure of +7.2%, almost breaking through the Euro 90 million export threshold.

Our positive trend is certainly driven by our production excellence, knowhow, technology, attention to detail and ability to dialogue with the clientcontinues Gabriella Marchioni Boccabut there are also signs, albeit weak for the moment, of a structural change in the markets. Asian footwear production is not growing so fast but consumptions are up so it is exporting less.”

According to APICCAPS estimates, global footwear production recorded a slight drop in 2015 compared with the previous year, falling to 23 billion pairs but the most interesting datum is that, for the first time in several years, the Asian production share (87%) has stabilised while the European one (4%) has recovered slightly. In terms of demand, Asia and North America have increased their global consumption shares but the Asian export quota has dropped, a sign that a growing share of production is going to domestic consumption.

These are small signs of change and “savage” delocalisation seems to be giving way to selective delocalisation.

Export data for footwear, leather-goods and tanning machinery processed by the Ufficio Studi ASSOMAC show that Asia continued to be our point of reference in 2016: the top market area absorbing 40.2% of Italian exports in machinery for tanning; the top market area with 40.1% for leather-goods machinery (exports to Asia nearly tripled in just one year in this sector) and the second market area with 28.8% in machinery for traditional footwear.

In all three principal sectors, Italian exports to Eastern and Western Europe have grown, often by two-digit figures. Less linear, but generally positive, is the trend of exports to Central/North America while there has been a widespread reduction in exports to South America, with the sole exception of leather-goods machinery.

Unlike our Chinese competitors, more of our machinery exports have historically gone to Western countries, both for logistical proximity and specialisation type, but it is interesting to see that, after several standstills, people in Europe started investing again a few years ago. We must interpret this new trend as an opportunity but not necessarily a given for our production. Yet again, our ability to interpret the change will make the difference.

“Industry 4.0 is not simply a sloganends Gabriella Marchioni Bocca. European countries, the United States and some Latin America countries are investing even more in new knowledge than in new machinery. This is why ASSOMAC, too, is working on such projects, serving its member companies and involving the industry. This “rethink”, this shift in outlook, offers us a unique chance to help the manufacturing industry rethink itself. To do so, we must increasingly place ourselves at the cutting edge of technology, change the way we think and push ourselves to be creative in both our technology and business offers, strengthened by our past achievements but with no illusions that this status will continue unless we are able to interpret the speed of change. Companies are investing in new technology, sometimes in countries where the manufacturing industry had been on the wane but is now key once more thanks to the speed of their response to the market, versatile management of small production volumes and product personalisation.”


Vigevano, 30 June 2017