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News /Trade

German footwear industry on the recovery path

Apr 16, 2014 / Germany

In 2013 Germany exported 185 million pairs of shoes, valued at 3 303 million euros, which represented an increase of 5.3% and 10.1%, respectively. The average price of German footwear grew 4.6% and now reaches 17.90 euros

According to Mr. Manfred Junkert, Managing Director of the Federal Association of the German Footwear and Leather Goods Industry (HDS/L), the success of the German footwear companies has strong roots in historic reasons. German companies are used to operate in very competitive markets, and over the years have built up their own brands, which is essential from a customer visibility’s perspective. Furthermore, German manufacturers have a reputation of producing high quality combined with competitive prices, explained Mr. Junkert.

80% of German sales abroad have a European Union country as destination, with France (12%), Austria (9%) Netherlands (9%), Poland (8%), United Kingdom (7%) and Slovakia (6%) as the main trading partners.

In terms of the product mix, leather shoes are the main type of product exported by Germany with a 56% share, followed by rubber and plastic (24%) and textile (19%). Apart from other material footwear, all products registered increases in their average export price.

On the imports side, the country is also back to the growth path, with the number of shoes imported into Germany growing from 537 million pairs in 2012 to 570 million pairs in 2013, a 6.2% increase in volume. Deliveries from EU countries reached 119 million pairs, an increase of 10.7%, but most shoes still come from Asian countries – 73% of all footwear entering the country comes from either China (52.3%) or Vietnam (11.6%).

If we analyze the value of German imports, China is the main supplier (29.3%), followed by Vietnam (13.4%), Italy (10.2%), Netherlands (4.8%) and Portugal (4.3%). Average import price is stable at 11.66 euros. The product mix is leaded by leather shoes (55%), followed by two categories, rubber and plastic (23%) and textile (22%).

Germany’s performance in 2013, marked by growth in both the export and import sides, allowed the return of the country to the growing path of recent years, after the decline registered in 2012. However, the industry will still face relevant challenges, according to its sectorial association.
Mr Junkert identified e-commerce, with its fast growing performance, as the new customer of the industry. The challenge is to find rules that can be applied to this channel, he says; and there is an additional concern, as small retailers might leave the business as a consequence. But this is not the only element of the structural change process undergoing in the retail sector in Germany. Mr Junkert elected the concentration process to few big retail chains as another key challenge for the future, as well as the direct link that new chains have to Chinese production plants, with the natural impacts to national manufacturing structure.

According to Mr Junkert, one of the main priorities for HDS/L is to better communicate to customers the advantages of working with reliable industrial footwear manufacturers based nearby. The other main challenge and priority identified by the German Association and Mr Junkert concerns the international fairs. In the near future, in a context where most international footwear fairs are facing minor numbers of visitors, HDS/L will focus attention and resources supporting fairs that present promising concepts for the future.

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