With more than 50 percent of the global production and consumption, the Asian continent is taking on more importance in the global footwear market. According to the 2014 edition of the World Footwear Yearbook, which came out last month, Asia's share of global footwear consumption continued to increase and reached 51 percent in 2013, up from 49 percent four years ago.

Because of its huge population, China led the global market with an estimated consumption of 3,678 million pairs, followed by the U.S. and India. Taken as a single entity, the European Union came into second position, ahead of the U.S.

Commissioned by Apiccaps, the Portuguese shoe industry association, the 2014 World Footwear Yearbook showed also that international footwear trade set new records in 2013, rising by 7 percent in volume to 14.4 billion pairs and by 12 percent in dollars to US$119 billion. As it is both a large producer and consumer of footwear, Europe represented 35.9 percent of world trade in terms of value; but the U.S. remained the largest importer, with a share of 22.3 percent in dollars and 20.6 percent in pairage.

Germany, France and the U.K. came next among the top importing countries, and their imports grew faster in terms of value than in the U.S. Imports into Russia grew by 6.9 percent last year, and the country came in eighth position, after Japan, Italy and Hong Kong, with a share of 3.8 percent of all imports in dollars and 2.9 percent in volume. China came in 14th place, but its imports went up by 12.3 percent in value and the average import price was $30.80 per pair, compared with low levels of $10.83 for the U.S. and $9.34 for Japan.

In presenting the report to journalists at the GDS fair in Düsseldorf last month; João Maia of Apiccaps noted that imports into Asia and Africa have been rising in the last few years. He predicted that Asia will account for two-thirds of the increase in global shoe consumption over the next years. He sees China's consumption going up by 25 percent between 2010 and 2018, India by 20 percent and other Asian countries by 22 percent.

Total shoe exports broke new records in 2013, rising by 12 percent to $119 billion in value and by 7 percent in volume to 14.4 billion. The average export price per pair increased by 4.9 percent to $8.27 last year, and it was 42 percent higher than in 2003. It climbed to $7.34 in 2008 but then declined in the subsequent two years, down to $6.66 in 2010, because of weak economic conditions.

At $48.78 per pair, Italy's average export price remained the highest in the world, followed by Portugal and France with $31.01 and $30.78. Romania came next with an export price of $24.75, followed by Belgium, Germany, Spain, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Hong Kong and Vietnam.

The growth in leather prices, which doubled in the past decade, was partly responsible for the price increases posted by the finished product. However, it has led to a decline in the share taken up by leather shoes in global footwear exports to 47 percent from 61 percent ten years earlier. Rubber, plastic and canvas shoes increased their shares - in volume as well as in value.

China's shoe exports rose to $48.1 billion last year. In spite of rising labor costs, China further raised its lead, and its share of the total exported value around the world crossed the 40 percent threshold for the first time. Italy and Vietnam followed, with shares of 9.0 percent and 8.4 percent, respectively. However, while exports from China rose by 8.5 percent - less than the global average - Vietnam's exports jumped by 38.1 percent. Double-digit increases were also recorded by Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal.

Shoe production around the world crossed the threshold of 22 billion pairs for the first time in 2013. As before, 87 percent of all the shoes are manufactured in Asia, with China leading the pack with a share of 63 percent. In terms of quantity, South America is next with 5 percent of the total production, followed by Europe with 4 percent, and North America and Africa, both with shares of 2 percent.

There has been a trend to relocate production from China to other sources, but mostly in favor of other Asian countries. Neither China or other Asia countries have been losing their share of European imports in terms of dollars in the last five years, Maia pointed out. On the other hand, production near the market has increased from two to three percent of footwear consumption.

The report can be obtained from Apiccaps. Its data and forecasts will be among the subjects of discussion at the 5th World Footwear Forum in Léon, Mexico on Nov. 24-25. Registrations are still open on the website of the convention.