COVID Continues to Take a Heavy Toll on Italian Footwear Industry

As consumer shopping habits have changed drastically this year during the coronavirus pandemic, the Italian footwear industry has experienced severe declines in sales and production this year. And with another deadly wave of the virus sweeping the globe, leaders representing the country’s storied shoemakers are signaling more struggles could be ahead.

“We are very concerned about the months to come,” said Siro Badon, chair of the Italian shoe association, Assocalzaturifici. “The first timid signals of a return to ‘normality’ in demand, on both the international and domestic markets … could be immediately annihilated by the second wave of the pandemic, with severe repercussions for the industry’s ability to hold out.”

Badon noted that sales for Italian footwear plummeted in the first nine months of this year, falling 17.8% domestically and 20.1% internationally. Those revenue declines have taken a heavy toll on businesses and workers: Roughly 231 enterprises have closed and about 3,453 jobs were lost during that time, Badon said, among both footwear and component manufacturers.

According to Assocalzaturifici, all of the major footwear categories produced in Italy have been impacted by the pandemic. As expected, “classic” shoes for men and women saw the steepest drop-off (down about 30%) as special events were cancelled and many jobs shifted to remote work. Meanwhile, sales for children’s shoes fell 15% and sneakers/sports footwear dropped by 20%.

The slipper and lounge footwear segment performed the best due to increased demand during lockdowns but still registered a 7.4% decline in terms of pairs sold.

Exports have long been a main driver of the Italian shoemaking industry. However, in the first three quarters of 2020, its exports fell in all major regions, with declines in volume in the EU (-16.5%), North America (-30%), Asia (-23.3%) and the Middle East (-20.5%).

Like much of the world, Italy is in the midst of fighting a second deadly wave of the novel coronavirus, as the holiday celebrations have led to a spike in infections and renewed restrictions to limit movement and large gatherings.

According to reports, the country registered 16,202 new COVID-19 cases on Dec. 30, a 9.5% increase from the previous day. It also saw 575 deaths from the virus, down from 659 the prior day.

Italy has been allocated roughly 209 billion euros (or $256.23 billion at current exchange) from an EU fund to aid countries hardest hit by the pandemic. However, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said the government’s national recovery plan will not be finalized until February.

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