Italy's shoe production fell by 5.0 percent in volume in the third quarter of 2018, resulting in a 2.4 percent decline for the first nine months of the year, according to a survey released by the Italian shoe industry association, Assocalzaturifici.
The association noted that domestic demand was not showing any signs of recovery, while foreign demand was slackening, especially in terms of volume.
During the nine-month period, household consumption in Italy fell by 0.9 percent in value and by 0.8 percent in quantity. The only segment that enjoyed growth was sports shoes and sneakers, up by 1.5 percent in value and by 3.6 percent in volume.
The latest available statistics on foreign trade, which cover the first eight months through August, show a 3.7 percent rise in the value of Italy's shoe exports to just below €6.5 billion, setting a new record for the period, but they were down by 3.1 percent in volume to 143.6 million pairs.
Sales to European Union increased by 2.7 percent in value but were down by 6.0 percent in volume.
Exports to Germany rose by 2.4 percent in value and by 0.2 percent in volume, while those destined for the U.K. went up by 5.8 percent in value and fell by 1.1 percent in volume.
Exports to other leading markets in the European Union suffered significant declines in volumes with France down by 8.7 percent, Spain by 9.8 percent and the Netherlands by 13.9 percent.
Sales to non-EU countries rose by 4.7 percent in value and by 3.6 percent in quantity in the eight months, lifted by China, where exports increased by more than 20 percent both in value and volume.
Exports to Switzerland, which has become a logistics hub for the Italian fashion industry, rose by 15 percent in volume.
Total sales to the Far East advanced by 3.6 percent in volume thanks to China as well as South Korea, where it went up by 11.0 percent, offsetting drops of 7.0 percent in Hong Kong and a 3.9 percent in Japan.
Also in volume, exports rose by 4.5 percent in the U.S. and by 23.4 percent in Canada, lifted by the newly introduced CETA free trade agreement between Canada and the EU.
Sales to Russia were down by 11.3 percent in the eight months, with the decrease accelerating in July and August after a decline of 9.6 percent in the first half of the year.
Exports to the Middle East fell by 7.6 percent in volume, with Saudi Arabia down by 14.7 percent and the United Arab Emirates down by 1.5 percent.
The overall trade surplus for the Italian footwear industry was €2.9 billion for the eight-month period, down slightly from the same period a year earlier.
The Italian industry continued to suffer from the business environment with the total number of footwear manufacturers going down by 2.5 percent between the end of 2017 and the end of the September, as 120 fewer firms were in operation during the period. Employment in the industry dropped by 0.4 percent during the nine-month period, with the headcount falling by 314.