Official statistics show that Portugal's shoe exports increased by 20.2 percent to €1.2 billion in the first nine months of 2011, representing the biggest year-on-year increase of the last 17 years. They were nearly equal to Portugal's total exports in 2010, when they grew by 5.2 percent to €1.29 billion.

A breakdown of exports by country of destination was not available, but the national shoe industry association, Apiccaps, proclaimed that the country's shoe industry exported more footwear to Italy than it imported for the first time ever. In the first nine months of 2011, Portuguese shoemakers sent 2 million pairs of shoes to Italy with a value of €39.8 million, while Italian manufacturers exported 1.8 million pairs worth €39.76 million to Portugal.

Apiccaps predicted nevertheless an overall increase of only around 9 percent for the full year, in view of a likely drop in the export growth during the fourth quarter. Apiccaps' quarterly survey of the industry indicates that only 17 percent of its members registered higher foreign orders during the third quarter, while 30 percent suffered a decline. The others reported stable orders.

While 73 percent of the respondents reported stable prices in foreign markets, 22 percent said they had increased. Only 5 percent said their export prices had declined. Also in the third quarter, 64 percent of the companies participating in the survey said their production had stabilized.

The Portuguese shoe industry intends to continue to invest in export promotion. With the support of the government, it plans to invest €11 million next year in promotional activities in more than 30 countries. More than 140 firms will participate in more than 60 trade shows around the world. A campaign under the theme “The Sexiest Industry in Europe” will be launched in 2012, featuring two well-known Portuguese fashion models, Sara Sampaio and Kevin Sampaio.