After rising by 2.6 percent in 2016, Italy's exports of shoes and components went up by 3.4 percent in value to more than €9.5 billion in 2017. The good performance followed a relatively strong increase of 6.6 percent in the fourth quarter of the year, which came after increases of only 1.8 percent in the second quarter and 1.0 percent in the third one.

The data were given by Italy's shoe industry association, Assocalzaturifici, as part of an interesting study on export flows from the various regions of the country. The increase of 6.6 percent was in fact the national average of the growth rates for all the regions. Among the main shoe manufacturing clusters, the regions of Veneto, Tuscany and Apulia showed the biggest increases in the quarter, raising their exports by 7.6 percent, 7.3 percent and 7.1 percent, respectively.

The region of Le Marche recorded a 5.8 percent increase year-on-year, after seven consecutive quarters in which its shoe exports had declined. However, exports from Le Marche showed a decline for the full year of 1.5 percent to €1.43 billion, in spite of a 21.5 percent boost in its export trade with Russia, which represented 10.8 percent of all the region's export turnover. Its exports to Germany were flat at 12.7 percent of the total, and they were down in the U.S. and France. Inside the region, the negative trend was particularly acute in the manufacturing cluster of Macerata.

Meanwhile, the region of Veneto reinforced its leadership last year, followed by Tuscany, Lombardy and Le Marche. Exports from the region around Venice rose by 4.3 percent in 2017 to €2.60 billion. They were driven by an increase of 11.5 percent to France, still the biggest market for the region, with a share of 20.4 percent, followed by Germany, Switzerland and the U.K.

Exports of shoes and components from Tuscany rose by 4.2 percent to €2.03 billion, with a particularly strong increase of 40.0 percent in exports to Switzerland, which represented 26.4 percent of the business. Tuscany's exports to the two other major destinations – the U.S. and France - went down.

It seems clear to us that the strong development of the luxury goods brands owned by two French group, LVMH and Kering, in France and Switzerland, about which we have already reported, contributed to the positive trends registered in Veneto and Tuscany. In fact, Switzerland is major international distribution hub for Kering's Gucci brand, which is based in Florence. 

While Le Marche was the only region that benefited significantly from the apparent recovery of the Russian market, the region of Lombardy around Milan was the only one that recorded a double-digit increase in exports to its largest market, the U.S. They rose by 15.7 percent, representing 13.9 percent of the region's exports of shoes and components, which went up overall by 4.1 percent to €1.45 billion, overtaking Le Marche as Italy's third-largest exporter. The region's exports to France, which came right after the U.S. with a share of 13.7 percent, were off by 3.7 percent.

In contrast with the other major shoe manufacturing regions, Lombardy's export business developed positively in the last few years outside Europe. In addition to the U.S., it rose strongly also in the United Arab Emirates, China and other far Eastern  countries.

Last year, all the major Italian shoe manufacturing regions recorded increases in their exports of shoes and components except for the region of Campania around Naples. They fell last year by 4.1 percent to €257.5 million, with a particularly strong decline of 13.8 percent in the fourth quarter. The only major factor was a drop of 24.2 percent last year in France, the region's largest market with a share of 24.2 percent. Exports from Campania were on the rise in its three other major markets of Switzerland, Germany and the U.S.