German suppliers and retailers equally experienced a difficult business year, probably because of difficult weather conditions in 2013. According to preliminary figures from HDS/L, the German shoe and leathergoods industry federation formerly known as HDS, the German shoe industry suffered a decrease of 1.2 percent in its total turnover to €2.3 billion in 2013.

While sales decreased by 2.6 percent in the first half as compared to the same period of the previous year, they rose slightly by 0.3 in the second half. For 2014, HDS/L expects some growth in sales as compared to 2013, as the financial crisis in the European Union seems to have come to an end.

German suppliers saw their domestic sales drop by 1.9 percent in value to €1.72 billion. In other markets, their sales increased slightly by 0.6 percent to €617 million in 2013. Thus, the share of foreign sales increased by 26.7 percent.

Although the industry's sales went down, the number of its employees in Germany increased by an average of 27 new employees per company. However, official statistics registered 41 companies in the shoe industry, five fewer than in 2012. The number of employees fell by 1.5 percent in the companies with more than 50 employees. In 2013, the 41 companies employed a total of 11,611 people.

Average selling prices for shoes remained stable as compared to the previous year. However, due to increasing prices for raw materials and higher labor costs, the German shoe industry is expecting higher domestic selling prices for footwear in the next three months.

At the GDS fair held in Düsseldorf last week, HDS/L presented more detailed sales, export and import figures. Shoe imports into Germany increased from 537 million pairs in 2012 to 570 million pairs in 2013, which represents an increase of 6.2 percent. Twenty percent came from the European Union. Asia represented 73 percent of total imports. In terms of value, shoe imports from other countries in the EU accounted for 38 percent of imports.

Average shoe prices per imported pair, which have been steadily increasing since 2008, rose only slightly in 2013 and reached €11.6, 0.5 percent up from 2012. For shoes with leather uppers, average import prices went up by 3.2 percent to €22.38. While in most of the larger supplier countries the import prices for shoes with leather uppers rose by less than €1, imports from Italy and the Netherlands increased by €3.5 and €2.23 per pair, respectively.

The share of Chinese imports reached 52.4 percent of all imported footwear with 298 million pairs in 2013, up from 284 million pairs in 2012. In terms of value, Chinese imports reached a total import value of €1.952 billion. Imports from Vietnam were stable as compared to the previous year with 66.4 million pairs imported to Germany in 2013, 11.6 percent of total shoe imports. In terms of value, Vietnamese imports reached a total import value of €889 million last year.

In terms of quantity, China and Vietnam are followed by the Netherlands, which increased by 79.8 percent from 15 million pairs to 27.525 million. The total value of shoe imports from the Netherlands reached €320 million in 2013. Shoe imports from Italy rose slightly from 24 million pairs in 2012 to 25 million pairs in 2013 with a total import value of €679 million in 2013, up by 7.3 percent as compared to the previous year. After a declining volume last year, imports from India increased again by 12.4 percent to 16 million pairs in 2013.

Sales of German shoes abroad, including those manufactured in other countries, rose by 5.3 percent in volume to 185 million pairs in 2013. The average price per pair rose by 4.6 percent to €17.9. Shoe exports to other countries of the European Union accounted for 87 percent of the total volume.

The highest volume of Germany's foreign sales went once again to Slovakia. A total of 27.5 million pairs, representing an increase of 22.4 percent as compared to 2012 and an export share of 14.9 percent of total German exports, were delivered to Slovakia in 2013. Shoe exports to Poland decreased by 12.7 percent to 22.5 million pairs in 2013 and reached a share of 12.2 percent of total German shoe exports.

While exports to France rose by 18.8 percent to 20.8 million pairs, exports increased by 16.1 percent to the Netherlands, by 9.6 percent to Austria and by 16 percent to the U.K., where they reached a level of 8.7 million pairs.

In terms of value, shoe exports reached €413 million in France, up by 25.9 percent, €302 million in Austria, up by 8.4 percent, €300 million in the Netherlands, €276 million in Poland, €230 million in the U.K., €209 million in Slovakia, €181 million in Switzerland and €147 million in Belgium.

HDS/L is optimistic for 2014, as the general conditions are very positive at the moment. Employment is at a very high level in Germany and producers have recorded a good level of orders in the first three months of this year.