The Spanish footwear export statistics for the first nine months of 2016 show an increase of 2.3 percent in their volume, accompanied by a 7.8 percent decrease in their total value. The trend was particularly pronounced in Spain's trade with other member countries of the European Union, which grew by 2 percent in volume but fell by 11.3 percent in value.

Conversely, exports to the rest of the world went up by 3.5 percent in volume and by 4.4 percent in value. With a total volume of 25 million pairs worth €528 million, they still represented less than 25 percent of total exports, but their progress is indicative of the manufacturers' efforts to diversify their global market coverage. Overall, Spain exported 125 million pairs worth €2,130 million during the nine-month period, marking the first drop in value since 2009.

On the other hand, the rising domestic demand caused Spain's shoe imports to increase by 4.2 percent in volume and 5.8 percent in value during the nine-month period, leading to a negative trade balance of €103 million in the sector, after many years of trade surpluses.

The Spanish shoe industry federation, Fice, estimates that the country's production is close now to the levels reached in 2007, just before the financial crisis. It wants it to continue to grow in volume and to improve margins in order to invest in branding, technologies and skilled manpower.

The average export price for Spanish shoes declined by 9.92 percent to €17.04 per pair in the first months of 2016, with a drop of 12.5 percent to €16.22 in Europe. The average price increased by 5.08 percent to €36.19 in the Americas and by 1.25 percent to €25.71 in Asia.

Fice is worried about a drop of 15.7 percent in exports of leather shoes during the period, after a compounded annual average growth of 10.5 percent in the past three years. Exports of women's leather shoes, in particular, fell by 21.8 percent in value. On the other hand, exports of synthetic and rubber shoes went up by 13.0 percent, while canvas shoes recorded an increase of 8.0 percent. Leather shoes still represented 58.6 percent of the total value of Spain's shoe exports.

Looking at the two major export destinations, Fice noted declines of 3.4 percent in volume and 18.3 percent in value in France and increases of 20.4 percent in volume and 12.0 percent in value in Italy. In Germany, exports rose by 1.2 percent in volume but fell by 8.2 percent in value. Similarly, in the U.K., they increased by almost 2 percent in volume but dropped by 12.3 percent in value. Both in Germany and the U.K., Spanish shoemakers had performed very well in 2015.

In the U.S., which remained the biggest export outlet outside the EU, sales of Spanish footwear went up by 12.0 percent in volume and by 15.7 percent in value, reaching levels of 3.2 million pairs and €147.6 million.

China overtook Japan as the biggest buyer of Spanish shoes in Asia, following increases of 5.4 percent in volume and 3.6 percent in value. In Japan, in contrast, the Spanish industry recorded decreases of 14.6 percent in volume and 8.0 percent in value. Exports to South Korea rose by 21 percent to €19.2 million, placing it in third place after China with an export turnover of €35.6 million and Japan with €31.7 million.

In a further indication of a possible turnaround in the Russian market, Spanish shoe exports grew there by 4.1 percent in volume and by 0.2 percent in value.

Among the significant data, we notice that imports from China increased by 3.6 percent in volume and by 3.0 percent in value in the first nine months of 2016, confirming it as the major source. On the other hand, imports from Vietnam fell by 12 percent in volume and by 4 percent in value. Imports from Bangladesh jumped by 15.5 percent in volume and by 17.0 percent in value. Consolidating a trend already observed in 2015, imports from Italy rose by 17.3 percent in volume and by 13.5 percent in value.