The definitive foreign trade statistics compiled by the European Shoe Industry Federation (CEC) give an idea of the damage done in 2009 on the import and export front by the global financial crisis, as buyers and distributors cut back their orders. Exports from the European Union declined more than imports, however, and the gap in the average price between incoming and outgoing footwear narrowed to €22.31 from €24.47 a pair.

The situation remains difficult, considering that the EU's total shoe exports declined by a further 8.3 percent in the first two months of 2010, while imports declined by 3.4 percent, according to preliminary data.

Presented at CEC's annual convention in Istanbul last week, the final 2009 figures show an overall drop of 8.1 percent to 2,233.6 million pairs in the volume of shoes imported into the EU in 2009. Their average price went up by 5.5 percent to €5.21, so the overall drop in value was limited to 3.0 percent.

While imports declined to €11.6 billion from €12.0 billion in 2008, exports dropped at a higher rate of 18.6 percent, down to €4.2 billion. In terms of volume, exports fell by 13.0 percent to €154.4 billion and the average price declined by 6.4 percent to €27.52 per pair. The trade deficit of the EU thus increased to 2,079 million pairs in volume and €7.2 billion in value.

More detailed data about the major footwear categories are given on the next page. They show, in particular, that leather shoes followed a similar pattern. EU imports of leather shoes declined by 15.8 percent to 461.2 million pairs, but their total value dropped by only 8.9 percent to €5.69 billion, indicating a higher price per imported pair of leather shoes of €12.34.

Exports of leather shoes, which represent the bulk of the remaining European shoe industry, dipped by 21.9 percent in volume and by 20.5 percent in value, going down to a level of 79.0 million pairs worth €3.37 billion, or an average of €42.65 a pair. Italy, Spain and Portugal were the major exporters.

The drop in the EU's shoe exports was mainly attributable to sharply reduced demand in the important American and Russia markets. By value, exports to the U.S. and Russia fell by 26.3 percent and 34.0 percent, respectively. Double-digit declines were also recorded in exports to Turkey (-13.3%), Norway (-16.4%), Ukraine (-37.0%), Croatia (-11.8%), Canada (-22.4%) and the United Arab Emirates (-14.5%), among others. Exports to Switzerland and Japan declined by 5.6 and 7.1 percent, respectively.

The EU's imports from China dropped by 5.5 percent to 1,664 million pairs, but their average value increased by 7.7 percent to €3.54, translating into a slight 1.8 percent increase in the value of those imports to €5.88 billion. The effect of the EU anti-dumping duties on Chinese leather shoes was evident: Their imports into the EU fell by 24.3 percent in volume to 138.4 million, but a 13.9 percent increase in their average value to €11.02 per pair reduced the drop in their total value to 13.7 percent. They were worth a total of €1.52 billion.

Imports of leather shoes from Vietnam declined by 25.8 percent to 217.0 million pairs, but their average price per pair increased by 7.9 percent to €11.04, resulting in a drop of 19.6 percent in their total value to €872.9 million. Leather shoes represented almost half of Vietnam's total exports and they were half as high as those from China but the average price came out very similar to China's.

India and Indonesia became slightly interesting alternative sources in 2009. Shoe imports from India rose by 6.6 percent in volume and by 2.8 percent in value, rising to a level of 70.9 million pairs worth €790 million, and most of those ? 67.2 million pairs, up by 7.6 percent ? were leather shoes with a total value of €769.3 million, just behind Vietnam. Total shoe imports from Indonesia rose by 0.5 percent in volume to 75.9 million, and their total value increased by 10.5 percent to €733.4 million. Of theses, almost 55 million pairs worth €580.7 million were leather shoes.

A big surprise was a 24.9 percent drop in imports from Brazil to 26.6 million pairs, probably due mainly to the appreciation of the real. Their total value decreased by 17.5 percent to €318.9 million. Their volume fell by 24.9 percent to 26.5 million pairs, but with a 10.0 percent increase in the average value per pair to €13.62.

Among the other sources, only Cambodia, Bangladesh and Albania recorded double-digit increases in shoe imports into the EU. Imports from Cambodia were up by 17.3 percent in volume and 27.3 percent in value. The total value from Cambodia reached €144 million, driven by increases of 65.1 percent for synthetic and rubber shoes and 93.0 percent for canvas shoes. Shoe imports from Bangladesh rose by 12.0 percent in volume and by 18.3 percent in value, reaching levels of 11.7 million pairs and €88.9 million, respectively. Almost all the shoes imported from Albania were made of leather, and while their quantity increased by 4.9 percent to 7.1 million pairs, their value rose by 34.2 percent to €74.2 million, indicating a major improvement in the country's manufacture of finished products.