Figures from the Spanish shoe industry association, FICE, show that the country’s shoe production fell by 6.3 percent last year to 118 million pairs, but in terms of value it decreased by only 4.3 percent to roughly €2 billion. By volume Spain exported 1.9 percent less footwear at 94.6 million pairs but in value terms exports were up by 4.3 percent to €1,718.3 million. From what the country exports, 60-75 percent generally goes to other countries in the European Union.

In terms of both value and volume, France continues to be the number one market for Spain’s footwear exports. Last year Spain exported to France 23.9 million pairs of shoes worth €358.5 million, representing a rise of 5.19 percent in volume but a decrease of 1.93 percent in value, as the average price per pair fell by 6.77 percent to €15.03. As a distant second, Germany bought 14.02 percent fewer shoes from Spain at 11.7 million pairs, but the average price rose by 9.7 percent to €14.08, limiting the decrease in value to 5.67 percent and resulting in exports of €165.2 million to that country.

Exports to Portugal grew by 2.7 percent in volume to 10.4 million pairs, while in value they were up by 8.7 percent to

€144.2 million. The average price paid by Spain’s next-door neighbor rose by 5.9 percent to €13.83. Exports to the UK in terms of volume fell by 19.6 percent to 9.5 million pairs. In value terms they decreased by 9.3 percent to €185.2 million as the average price paid by British clients increased by 12.8 percent to €19.49.

Meanwhile, Spain imported 211.5 million pairs from China in 2006 worth €575.7 million. This represents a rise of 24.8 percent in volume and an increase of only 21.7 percent in value as the average price of shoes bought from China decreased by 2.5 percent to €2.72, in contrast with Chinese imports into some other countries. Spain bought from Vietnam 5.5 percent more shoes in volume terms at 20.0 million pairs. In terms of value, imports from Vietnam grew by 3.15 percent €199.1 million, with average price down by 2.2 percent to €9.95.

Italy was a distant third in terms of the volume of footwear imported by Spain in 2006, but in value terms it was not far behind Vietnam. Spain bought 13.3 percent more shoes from Italy at 8.2 million pairs, while paying 19.4 percent more than the year before at €168.2 million. The average price per pair rose by 5.4 percent to €20.55. Total footwear imports from all countries grew by 19.6 percent in volume to 295.7 million pairs and increased by 18.1 percent in value to €1,637.3 million.

One of the near-term target markets for Spanish footwear exports is Japan. FICE says it offers potential because it is quality-oriented, but the association is studying this market carefully because it is very different from those of the European Union. Tokyo is one of many cities throughout the world where FICE backs a contingent of Spanish footwear companies that show their latest styles there with the assistance of ICEX, Spain’s state-controlled export promotion agency. Only a few Spanish footwear companies export to Japan, working mainly through distributors. Last year Spain exported 1,087,221 pairs of shoes to Japan worth €31 million.

Officials of FICE acknowledge that some Spanish footwear companies are moving a portion of their sourcing to the Far East, but claim that they are still only a few that do so. One increasingly common practice is to ship Spanish materials to China and have the shoes assembled there.

FICE officials hope that the production of high value-added footwear will remain in Spain. Many customers throughout the world ask for a label on their shoes saying they were made in Spain, they say. Because of their overall higher value, Spanish footwear companies compete mainly with Italy. Spain was represented by about 180 companies at the latest MICAM fair.