The global market for luxury goods is expected to grow by 8-10 percent in 2006 to a massive €158-162 billion, with the shoe industry representing one of the fastest-growing segments in the sector, according to a study carried out by Bain & Company for an association, Altagamma, that groups many high-end design-based Italian companies. Altagamma says its members are growing about 2 percentage points faster than the global industry.

Bain’s study reportedly shows that the global market for quality footwear rose last year by 11 percent to €5 billion, compared with a 9 percent rise to €146 billion for the whole luxury industry. Among the various luxury accessories, only watches and leathergoods grew faster. On a geographical basis, the luxury goods market grew in 2005 by 7 percent in Europe, by 9 percent in the USA, by 11 percent in Japan and by 16 percent in the rest of the Asia-Pacific region.

Another study published by Nielsen during Milan’s Fashion Week last month concluded that shoes are the most sought-after accessory. Conducted over the internet among 23,500 people in 42 countries all over the world, the survey showed that 65 percent of them would buy them if their prices were more affordable. Next came glasses for 48 percent of the respondents, followed by wallets at 37 percent and handbags at 36 percent. Branded products are especially in demand in the emerging markets.

The luxury goods market is particularly buoyant right now. A Swiss bank, Lombard Odier Darier Hentsch, has calculated that the major European luxury groups raised their combined sales by 14 percent in the first six months of this year, heading for a higher total value than the peak that they had reached five years ago.