The German footwear industry recorded a 0.9 percent increase in total sales to €2.4 billion in the first eleven months of 2015, as compared to the same period of the previous year, said HDS/L, the German shoe and leathergoods industry's association, at this week's GDS fair in Düsseldorf. While its sales in the domestic market rose by 1.18 percent to €1.6 billion, the shoe industry's sales abroad dropped by 0.16 percent to €551 million, representing 22.9 percent of total revenues.

In terms of volume, German shoe exports grew by 4.3 percent to about 217 million pairs in the first eleven months of 2015, as compared to the same period of the previous year. A total of 576 million pairs of shoes were imported during the same period, representing an increase of 2 percent. More precise figures are expected to be released next month.

Average selling prices increased by 1.2 percent due to higher wages in China and other manufacturing countries, as well as the higher quality of raw materials used in the production.

The number of shoe suppliers remained stable last year in Germany at around 80. The number of employees increased once more: from January to November 2015, 8.2 percent more people were employed by the German footwear industry, as compared to the same period of the previous year, adding up to a total of 12,625 employees.

At his usual press conference during the GDS fair, Ralph Rieker, president of HDS/L, suggested suppliers and retailers should both be more open to the digitalization of their businesses, including electronic data interchange and the use of 3D printers and RFID (radio-frequency identification) chips. He pointed out that the sector is still hesitating to invest in the necessary digital networking.

The HDS/L is still optimistic for 2016, expecting a similar development of sales as last year. German shoe companies assume that their international business will be improving in the coming months. 

Meanwhile, German shoe retailers fared less well than their German suppliers. According to the BDSE, the German shoe retailers' federation, the total sales of Germany's brick-and-mortar retailers decreased by 1 percent to €8.3 billion in 2015, as compared to the previous year. Small and medium-sized companies even recorded a drop of 2 percent, while the bigger retail chains probably managed to break even.

Online footwear retailers, which make up 15 percent out of the total German shoe retail industry, increased their sales by an estimated 7 percent last year, as compared to 2014. Adding up online sales and the footwear sales of department stores, fashion stores, mail-order companies, sports retailers and supermarkets, the total German footwear retail trade had a stable turnover, estimated by BDSE at €11.7 billion in 2015.

In contrast with their purchase prices, the average prices charged by German retailers for the shoes they sold to consumers dropped last year to €64.5 for women's shoes from €65.45 in 2014. They were down to €75.3 for men's shoes from €76.30, but they increased slightly to €46.00 for children's footwear from €45.90.