We have already reported the growing foreign business of Alpargatas and Grendene, mainly through their brands of tongs, in connection with their financial results. We are going to report soon about Amazonas, a new entrant in this category.

Interviewed at the Couromoda shoe show in São Paulo last week or at the simultaneous Expo Riva Schuh show in Italy, major Brazilian producers of more complex types of synthetic or leather shoes that already have a strong position abroad - such as Bottero, Werner, West Coast or Piccadilly - indicated that their foreign sales were more or less stable last year, in spite of the devaluation of the real. Piccadilly said that it would have performed better outside of Brazil without the import and currency restrictions in Argentina and Venezuela, which remain its biggest foreign markets, and the ongoing economic problems in Southern Europe.

At 30 percent, the export ratio is already high at Piccadilly. A direct competitor of Piccadilly in the segment of synthetic shoes, Grupo Beira Rio, that has focused more on the domestic market in the recent year, reduced its prices, too. Its export sales grew by 70 percent last year because of the company's strategic decision to be more active in foreign markets, which still represent only 5 percent of its total sales. The company produces a wide range of synthetics under the brands Beira Rio, Vizzano, Moleka, Modare and Molekinha.

Like Piccadilly, Beira Rio is expanding its manufacturing capacity. Treading in Piccadilly's footsteps, Beira Rio is also aiming at doubling export volumes to around five million pairs this year and targeting an export ratio of 25 percent in the near future. For this purpose, it has set up a 15-man export department under the leadership of Vinicio Argento, the 27-year-old son of the company's president, Roberto Argento. One of the members of the team is Rodrigo Matos, an experienced export manager who joined the company in November 2012 after working for Via Uno until its recent financial problems.

A very different case is that of Jorge Bischoff, a Brazilian designer whose sales outside the country reached a level of 200,000 pairs last year, or 20 percent of the total volume under his two brands, which are positioned differently and manufactured at three factories in Rio Grande do Sul that he does not own. The brands have been growing by between 15 and 20 percent a year, with clients in more than 40 different countries.

Jorge Bischoff's first brand, which he launched under his own name ten years ago, has become the first major Brazilian designer brand. Domestically, it is sold in 54 franchised boutiques and through its website. Outside of Brazil, it has distributors in France, Belgium, Portugal and Russia and is sold to major shoe retail chains in Latin America, Eastern Europe and other parts of the world as well as to numerous independent stores.

Bischoff's second brand, Loucos & Santos, means “crazy saint” and is addressed to younger women. Launched four years ago, it is about 20 percent less expensive than the main line. It is also made mainly in leather, but uses fewer details. It has been particularly successful outside Brazil, reaching a volume of 80,000 pairs in the past year.  

The 18 Brazilian exhibitors at the Expo Riva Schuh show in Italy, which took place almost simultaneously with Couromoda, reported satisfactory results, collecting a total of 40 orders worth US$2.7 million, with expectations for an additional $15.3 million over the next 12 months. In particular, officials at Beira Rio and Werner said they had performed better than a year ago.

Beira Rio alone received 11 orders worth $500,000, with the expectation of reaching $1 million this year as a result of its contacts at the fair. It will also show at theMicam and the GDS and Mosshoes. Werner, whose women's dress shoes are in a much higher price category, was very pleased with the quality of the visitors, including some large chains. The company is already exporting 30 percent of its daily production of 2,000 pairs to more than 35 countries, capitalizing on the flexibility of its operations: Werner is willing to change a style at the customer's demand even if the order is for only 150 to 200 pairs.