Italian shoemakers saw their production volumes decline by 1.6 percent in the first half of this year, after the 1.8 percent increase recorded for all of 2013, according to a survey by their trade association, Assocalzaturifici. In terms of value, their sales went up by only 0.6 percent during the period, with average selling prices rising by 1.3 percent in Italy and by 3 percent elsewhere.

As a result, 67 shoe companies closed down and 600 shoe workers lost their jobs in the course of the six months. The survey indicated a lack of optimism about the future: Only 20 percent of the entrepreneurs in the sector feel that the situation will improve, while 25 percent think that it will get worse. With regard to the Italian market, 41 percent are expecting a further decline.

Cleto Sagripanti, president of Assocalzaturifici, cited the strength of the euro as a major factor for Italy's apparent loss of competitiveness in export markets. He also called on the Italian government to show its belief in the importance of manufacturing in the country through appropriate measures.

Sagripanti also reiterated a European request for reciprocity of trade conditions with other countries around the world - a theme that will be discussed at the World Footwear Congress in Mexico in November. Francisco Dos Santos, president of Couromoda and organizer of the previous congress in Rio de Janeiro, expressed hope that the new president of Brazil due to come out of the elections next January will agree to start bilateral negotiations on a free trade agreement with the European Union without the participation of other member countries of Mercosur.

The latest available Italian export figures, which only cover the first four months of this year, show a 3.9 percent increase in value to €2,839 million, due in part to a 4.6 improvement in the export price to €34.22 per pair. Exports of leather shoes declined by 3.8 percent in value and 2.9 percent in volume.

Italy's total shoe imports rose by 4.7 percent in volume and by 2.7 percent in value during the same four-month period.

The national market continued to give out very bad signals. Footwear consumption is estimated to have declined further by 4 percent in volume and 7.2 percent in value during the first half of this year, with more than half of the shoes sold in the stores at a discount.