The statistics available so far indicate an increase of 2.2 percent to €1,266 million for Portugal’s shoe exports during the first 11 months of 2008, in spite of a major decline in volume. The average price per pair grew in fact by 13.3 percent, in contrast with the negative trend recorded for Spanish footwear in the first nine months of last year.

The Portuguese figures are better than the 0.8 percent export increase in value reported by Italian manufacturers for the same 11-month period. Spanish manufacturers have yet to publish their latest export statistics, but industry officials said they will show a decline in value of about 4.9 percent for the full year, with a significant uptick in the last months. The Spanish export figures already announced for the first nine months of 2008 showed a decline of 6.2 percent in value, with a drop of 4 percent in the average price.

For the Portuguese shoe industry, which exports over 91 percent of its production, 2008 was the third consecutive year of export growth. Among the major destinations, sales grew during the 11-month period by 2 percent in Germany, by 8.4 percent in the Netherlands, by 5.2 percent in Spain, by 1.7 percent in Denmark, by 18 percent in Angola and by 3.7 percent in Russia. They dropped by 10 percent in France, by 12.9 percent in the U.K. and by 27.4 percent in the U.S.

Portuguese shoe manufacturers are trying to develop their business internationally by participating in foreign fairs and workshops to a larger extent than before. More than 120 companies were expected to be involved in more than 80 promotional events in 13 foreign markets this year, spending a total of €8.5 million with the partial support of the Portuguese government. More than 70 firms from Portugal exhibited at the recent Micam fair in Milan.

The immediate outlook is uncertain, however. The quarterly survey conducted by Apiccaps, the Portuguese shoe industry association, shows that only 25 percent of the companies in the sector recorded higher foreign orders in the fourth quarter of 2008, while 37 percent had fewer orders. The situation was even worse in the domestic market, where prices have started to decline.

Shoe production remained largely unchanged for 55 percent of the Portuguese companies in the fourth quarter of 2008. However, at 34 percent, the number of companies whose production declined was 23 percentage points higher than the number of firms that produced more. The score was the worst of the last five years.