In Germany, the biggest single footwear market in Europe with retail sales of €8.7 billion in 2003, the average price of imported Chinese shoes declined by 44.7 percent to €3.95 a pair in the 1st half of this year, but the total volume of imported shoes increased by 8.8 percent to 222.6 million pairs, with a 52.6 percent jump in imports from China to 60.6 million pairs. Imports from Italy instead declined by 8.6 percent in volume to 26.9 million pairs, but here again the average import price fell to €12.80 a pair from €13.42 a year ago. The volume of shoes imported from Vietnam dropped slightly to 45.0 million, but while that country is exporting more leather shoes to Germany, China is exporting fewer ones.

In the first six months of 2004, German shoe companies suffered a 2.7 percent drop in their total revenues to €1.46 billion in the 1st half, but their sales to German customers rose slightly to €1.05 billion, at least in terms of value. The value of their total shoe exports dropped by 11.2 percent to €409 million, but industry officials feel that there will be an increase for the full year. In terms of volume, German shoe exports increased by 27.7 percent to 49.1 million pairs but their average price fell by 15.3 percent to €16.71 as part of the general deflationary process, largely caused by the weaker US dollar and the rising Chinese presence in world markets.

According to the German shoe retailers’ association (BDSE), retail sales of shoes declined by 3 percent in the country during the 1st half of 2004, with monthly increases only in April and June, and there has been no lasting turnaround since. German shoe retailers, whose sales averaged €1.2 million per store and €114,922 per employee in 2003, managed to reduce their operating costs from 43.1 to 42.2 percent last year, but their average mark-ups dropped from 39.4 to 38.1 percent, largely because of price pressure from the major athletic footwear brands, which represent 6 percent of sales. Their spending on advertising declined from 4.6 to 4.3 percent of sales.