The return of production to Europe is a great illusion

The return of production to Europe is a great illusion
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Although there is much talk of reshoring or nearshoring, terms that essentially mean the return of industries to their country of origin, official figures do not seem to confirm this trend. “It is not possible to prove this movement”, considers Joana Vaz Teixeira.

According to the coordinator of the World Footwear Yearbook, an initiative of APICCAPS that consists in the production and dissemination of a detailed report that analyses the main trends in the footwear sector worldwide, “we don’t see the production moving in great volumes to Europe or near the consumption markets”.

“In 2021, the global production of footwear exceeded 22 billion pairs, still remaining below pre-pandemic levels”, highlighted Joana Vaz Teixeira. The industry “remains heavily concentrated in Asia, where almost 9 in every 10 pairs of shoes are manufactured”. It should be noted as well that in the past years “China has lost some market share, but other Asian countries took advantage of that”.

China and others

If in 2010 China was responsible for more than 65% of the world’s production of footwear, last year, the share of the Chinese industry in global production was only 54.1% (12 016 million pairs of shoes produced in 2021).

India (with a current share of 11.7% in production referring to the manufacturing of 2.6 billion pairs of shoes in 2021), Vietnam (6.1%; 1 360 million pairs), and Indonesia (4.9% 1 083 million pairs) seem to be growing at China’s expense. All, without exception, have significantly strengthened their relevance in the last decade.

Turkey has also emerged in this period, practically tripling its production over the last decade to 547 million pairs of shoes at the end of 2021.

America resists, but little.

The American continent retreated but continues to resist in what concerns the footwear industry. At this stage, they account for 6.1% of world production of footwear (the relative proportion was 8% in 2010).

The performance of Brazil and Mexico, the two biggest players in the region, remains vital for sustaining this register. Together, they have produced 140 million pairs of shoes less in the space of a decade.

Concerning Brazil, footwear production dropped approximately by 10% to 806 million pairs of shoes since 2010. In Mexico, this fall-back is even more significant: less 21.7% to 191 million pairs. 

Argentina’s performance, which continues to produce more than 100 million pairs of shoes every year (remaining virtually unchanged in this period), should be highlighted.

Countries such as Chile (2 million pairs), Ecuador (30 million) Guatemala (30 million), Paraguay (5 million), Peru (23 million), and Venezuela (18 million pairs) show to still have some tradition in the manufacturing of footwear.

Africa’s stronger than Europe

Despite not having a great tradition concerning footwear production, the African continent is now responsible for 2.9% of the world’s production, having thus reinforced its relevance over the last decade.

South Africa (51 million pairs produced in 2021) Egypt (72 million pairs), Ethiopia (91 million), Morocco (65 million), Nigeria (93 million), Kenya (60 million), and Tunisia (15 million) are deserving of a closer look in the future.

Europe in loss

Europe has been losing its international prominence, currently representing only 2.8% of the world’s production of footwear (627 million pairs produced in 2021).

The main player in the European sector, Italy, recorded a decline of 26.6% in the last decade, failing to produce 54 million pairs of shoes annually (149 million at the end of last year). Spain maintained a similar position, producing the same 95 million pairs. Portugal increased production by 22.6% to 76 million pairs at the end of 2021 (as compared with 62 million pairs manufactured in 2010).

Countries like Germany (55 million pairs produced in 2021), France (15 million pairs), Hungary (10 million pairs), Poland (22 million pairs), and Romania (14 million pairs) are still somewhat significant but are clearly losing ground.  In the United Kingdom, only 5 million pairs of shoes are produced per year.

Portugal resists

“Portugal maintains a strong, dynamic production structure, based on small and medium-sized companies, but very agile”, considers Luís Onofre. “This is one of the reasons why the Portuguese industry has gained some relevance in the European context and is sought after by reference customers, particularly in the higher market segments”, stresses the Chairman of APICCAPS.  

Luis Onofre believes that the coming years will be demanding for the sector, which is why “we will strengthen investments in innovation and sustainability”. “We have the conditions to be an international benchmark in terms of development and sustainable solutions”.