Cleto Sagripanti, president of Manas, was confirmed as president of Assocalzaturifici for a further two years at the annual meeting of the Italian shoe industry association a few days ago. A former candidate for the post from the Venice region, Franco Ballin, was elected as honorary president. The Italian shoe industry association, formerly called Anci, also elected four other entrepreneurs – Siro Badon, Diego Rossetti, Giovanni Taccetti and Arturo Venanzi – as vice presidents.

Sagripanti has already led many new initiatives since his election two years ago, besides changing the name of the association and of its trade show, which is now called theMicam, and launching its first show in China, theMicam Shanghai. He and the association are not stopping at that.

For example, Assocalzaturifici is setting up a new technological platform with a global reach around the industry's R&D center in Vigevano with the help of local authorities and banking foundations. The new platform will also engage in training and technical testing.

He also announced that Assocalzaturifici will allocate a specific budget to initiatives directed at fighting the plague of counterfeiting. It will invest more than in the past to promote the image of Italian shoemaking in more modern and effective ways.

The association will continue to lobby in Brussels for mandatory labels of origin. The European Commission is scheduled to vote next Oct. 17 on a proposal on the issue in the context of broader regulations about the safety of consumer products. Sagripanti and Fabio Aromatici, managing director of Assocalzaturifici, participated in a hearing on this topic at the European Parliament last May 29. The discussion is being led there by a Danish member of the parliament, Christel Schaldemose, who is opposed to making labels of origin mandatory. Curiously, the representatives of consumers are also criticizing the regulations.

Along with other associations, Assocalzaturifici is supporting the project of a new master's degree course in management and entrepreneurship for products “made in Italy.” It will be held in English at the Carlo Cattaneo University at Castellanza during the 2013-14 school year.

In another new initiative, Assocalzaturifici has launched a newsletter, called Economics, to raise market knowledge and analysis by providing insights on specific themes of interest for its members, while monitoring the sector with constantly updated statistical data.

Sagripanti said that the Italian shoe industry should develop strategies to anticipate expected changes in the market. He encouraged shoemakers to make new investments and to further develop their export business, noting that Italy's shoe exports continued to increase in value last year by 2.5 percent, driven by increases of 12.9 percent in value and 4.1 percent in shipments outside the European Union.

Domestic consumption, in contrast, declined by 4.2 percent in value and 3.6 percent in volume, and this helped to reduce Italy's shoe imports by 5.8 and 15.8 percent, respectively. On the other hand, the higher export levels softened the decline in the country's shoe production to rates of 1.2 percent in value and 4.4 percent in volume.

Similar trends have been observed in the first few months of 2013. Household spending on footwear fell by a further 4.7 percent in volume and 7.2 percent in value in the first quarter of this year. On the other hand, in the first two months of this year, the Italian shoe industry reached a new record of €1.5 billion in its exports, which grew by 3.7 percent in volume and 5.3 percent in value. In terms of value, sales declined by 2.7 percent in Germany, but they grew by 7.7 percent in France, by 27 percent in Russia and by 43 percent in China.

The number of shoe companies fell by 4.5 percent in 2012 in Italy to 5,356, while the number of their employees declined at a slower rate of 2.1 percent, down to a total of 79,254. In the first quarter of 2013, the available data show further declines of 1.5 and 1.2 percent, respectively. Looking at future employment, a survey conducted by the association shows that 68 percent are predicting stability, but the number of pessimists is double the number of optimists.