They increased by 4.9 percent to €3,265 million in the first five months of 2012, according to the figures released by the Italian shoe industry association, Assocalzaturifici, during theMicam show. They went up by 1.4 percent in volume to 98.2 million pairs, and their average export price increased by 3.5 percent to €33.26 per pair.

In particular, foreign sales of Italian leather shoes increased by 5.1 percent to €2,678 million. Volumes declined by 0.8 percent to 59.1 million pairs, but their average price went up by 5.9 percent to €45.29, confirming an ongoing trading-up process.

Instead, shoe imports into Italy went down by 2.0 percent in value and by 1.6 percent in volume during the five-month period. They reached a level of 145.2 million pairs worth €1,630 million, leaving a wider trade surplus in terms of value than in the same period of 2012.

The drop in imports was evidently due to the declining demand in Italy, which also affected the sales of Italian manufacturers. In the first six months of this year, consumer spending on shoes declined by a further 6.1 percent in Italy in terms of volume, after a drop of 4.5 percent registered in 2012, and the average price paid by Italians fell by 2.2 percent.

Exports to other member countries of the European Union fell by 0.3 percent in value and by 1.2 percent in volume. In terms of value, sales increased by 7.2 percent in France but dropped by 1.3 percent in Germany and by 13.7 percent in Spain. In the U.K., Italian shoemakers sold 12.6 percent fewer shoes, but their total value inched up by 2.8 percent.

Sales to the U.S. rose by 5.4 percent in value and by 8.4 percent in volume. They went up in Japan by 8.2 percent in value and by 8.8 percent in volume. In the United Arab Emirates, a 23.5 percent increase in value contrasted with a drop in volume of 4.6 percent.

In Eastern Europe, Russia and the Community of Independent States, Italy's shoe exports rose by 13.7 percent in value and by 18.4 percent in volume, with increases in the leather shoe segment of 14.1 percent and 23.1 percent, respectively. In particular, sales in Russia went up by 16.4 percent in value and by 19.3 percent in volume.

The best performances for Italian footwear occurred in China and Brazil, although the quantities remained limited in these two big shoe manufacturing countries. Sales in China increased by 30.9 percent in value and by 26.4 percent in volume, reaching a volume of 697,000 pairs worth €69.5 million.

The average export price continued to increase to €99.79 per pair in China, and it went up to €104.56 for leather shoes. An even higher average price of €110.98 was reached for Italian leather shoes in Hong Kong. Total shoe exports to Hong Kong increased by 4.3 percent in value to €94.9 million, but the volume decreased by 8.0 percent to 889,000 pairs.

Exports to Brazil increased by 72.8 percent in value and by 163.5 percent in quantity, but they were only worth €3.28 million for a total of 78,000 pairs.