Sales of Portuguese shoes abroad accelerated in the first six months of this year, rising by 12 percent to €885 million as compared to the first half of 2013, with increases of about 11 percent in the European Union and more than 23 percent in other parts of the world. In June alone, exports were up by 15.5 percent from a year ago.

The Portuguese shoe industry association, Apiccaps, noted among other highlights sales increases of 156 percent in Saudi Arabia, 148 percent in Hong Kong, 101 percent in China and 92 percent in the U.S.

Noting that the industry's sales abroad have already risen by 40 percent in the past four years, the association attributed the latest strong increases to a growing diversification of export markets, in line with a goal to get at least 20 percent of the export value from outside the EU by the year 2020.

The strong export growth and the return to European manufacturing by some big foreign brands caused the number of employees in the Portuguese shoe industry to grow last year by 420 to 35,044, according to data provided by Apiccaps. At least 600 more jobs have been created so far this year by Ecco, Ara and other companies, and about 300 more are in line for the balance of 2014. Many new workers are being recruited in the interior of the country. After creating new factories and workshops in Castelo de Paiva, Cabeceiras de Bastos, Celorico de Bastos and Paredes de Coura, Portuguese manufacturers are investing in another town, Cinfães.