MILAN — Despite challenges across the high-end market, Fabio Aromatici is determined to educate more consumers about Italian-made footwear.
Five months into his role as CEO of ANCI, the national association of Italian footwear manufacturers, Aromatici is moving ahead with a number of major initiatives, including the launch of exhibitions in key export markets, an expansion of the “I Love Italian Shoes” campaign and a sustainability push.
The U.S. market is a key part of the organization’s plans, Aromatici told Footwear News in an interview during the Micam show here.
“Although it is very difficult in the U.S. right now, we want to keep the attention high on Italian footwear,” he said. “We [want to appeal] to younger generations who might not have had the chance to come visit Italy and experience the art, culture, tradition and language.”
The executive predicted that the changing retail landscape in the States could provide an opening for new designers. “There is room for smaller companies and newer brands,” Aromatici said.
But he said he believes the U.S. is just one opportunity for Italy’s shoe industry, which exports about 80 percent of its products.
With so many buyers waiting to place orders closer to the season, manufacturers are targeting countries including France, Belgium and Germany. “Because we are physically so close, we can ship to them right away,” he said.
Dozens of Italian firms are hitting the road this spring with special ANCI exhibitions in markets such as Munich and Moscow. The organization also held events in Brazil and London earlier this year.
Another way the group plans to target new consumers is through social networking projects. ANCI recently conducted an online contest on Zoopa.com, where more than 200 people submitted videos about their perceptions of the made-in-Italy tag. “The competition allowed us to communicate with the future generations and receive their creative input,” Aromatici said. ANCI also recently launched a made-in-Italy group on Facebook.com.
In addition to touting the fashion and quality aspects of Italian-made products, Aromatici also is working to make the industry more eco-oriented.
“We already have a low environmental impact,” he said, “and now we are working with the European Commission on a biodegradable shoe. [We hope] to share the technology with the factories.”
Even as ANCI ramps up its outreach efforts, Aromatici is well aware of the obstacles ahead in the midst of a rocky economic climate. But he’s optimistic that Italy’s producers, who in recent years were forced to alter their strategies as production shifted to China, can adapt. “The good news is that Italians already know how to evaluate and restructure their business models,” he said.