Anci, the Italian shoe industry association, has reported that the country’s shoe production fell by 10.1 percent in volume during the first quarter of 2009, after a drop of 6.9 percent to a total of 225.2 million pairs in the past year.

The immediate outlook is not much better as only one out of six companies in the sector is seeing any signs of recovery, according to a quick survey carried out by the association. Total orders are down by about 7.4 percent, with drops of 5.3 percent on the domestic market, 10.1 percent from Germany and 18 percent from the U.S..

In the first two months of the year, Italy’s shoe exports fell by 7.4 percent to €1.27 billion, with declines of 24.6 percent in the U.S. and 15.2 percent in Russia partly offset by increases of 6.5 percent in France, 25 percent in Greece and 3.8 percent in Portugal, among others.

The Italian market seems to be recovering, however. During the first quarter of 2009, Italian households increased spending on footwear by 1.8 percent, after a drop of 4.4 percent to an estimated €3,568 million in the past year. Also in 2008, according to the final trade statistics for the year, the country’s trade balance for shoes remained negative in terms of volume and fell in terms of value by 3.08 percent to a still positive level of €3,678 million. Exports and imports both declined by 9.58 percent in terms of volume – down to 245.3 million pairs and 390.0 million pairs, respectively, but in terms of value, imports rose by 4.62 percent to €3,202 million, while exports grew by a mere 0.50 percent to €6,880 million.

At its annual meeting earlier this month, Anci reiterated its demands for government support in many different forms. It announced that the Italian Institute for Foreign Trade (Ice) has agreed to keep its subsidies for export promotion of Italian footwear at €3.5 million for this year, in spite of the government’s budgetary restrictions.

After promotion the expansion of Italian shoe exports in Russia, Anci is targeting other distant emerging markets such as Brazil, Chile, Singapore and Malaysia. Besides exploring the Indian market, Ice has identified other potential markets for action in the Gulf region, South America and Central Asia.