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The slow but steady recovery of world production in the post-pandemic era. China's dominant but shrinking role as a world factory. Emerging players reshaping the global production chain into a multipolar system after two decades dominated precisely by China.

These are the 3 points, which, according to Enrico Cietta, Chairman of the Expo Riva Schuh & Gardabags Scientific Committee, define the changes currently taking place in the international footwear market.

Cietta continues: “While production is catching up, albeit at a slower pace than expected, exports have surged and have already set new records.

The data as at 2022 (click here for more details) highlights consumption trends, which see China in the lead as always, followed by – for the first time – the United States, knocking India off its usual place on the second step of the podium.

Looking at world export trends, on the other hand, a less-significant decline was observed during the pandemic. Exports were more resilient to the crisis, since, although around 2.9 billion fewer pairs were traded in 2020 compared with 2019, there were also 3.8 billion fewer pairs produced. This is a counterintuitive result if we consider that, for many analysts, the pandemic was a watershed in the “deglobalisation” movement of world trade. In reality, this result indicates what we had already predicted: what we are facing is not deglobalisation, but rather a shift in the structure of globalised footwear production chains from a unipolar to a multipolar system.

China maintains the lead in production and exports but has lost market shares, which are instead being absorbed by new players. Like India, Pakistan and the Philippines, which have increased their share of production in the world total but contribute little to international trade. Or Turkey, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Cambodia, whose participation in world production has increased precisely because of their contribution to international trade: most of their production is in fact exported. Lastly, Brazil and Indonesia should be mentioned, which, despite losing shares in world production, have either maintained (Brazil) or even increased (Indonesia) their national share of world exports.

Almost all of these countries attended the recently concluded 100th edition of Expo Riva Schuh & Gardabags.
The approximately 1300 exhibitors, comprising companies and brands from 39 countries (+15% compared to the January 2023 edition), including 50 Gardabags companies (for bags and accessories) from Bangladesh, China, Germany, India, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Turkey, all welcomed the numerous buyers from all corners of the globe, also thanks to the ongoing and crucial support of ICE (ITA-Italian Trade Agency). The latter in fact developed an important incoming program that brought buyers and journalists to Riva del Garda from 26 countries. For the first time, the program also included visitors from Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Venezuela and Costa Rica.

This enthusiastic participation by international producers and distributors of footwear and accessories allowed a more in-depth analysis of the market’s current condition, especially during the Market Focuses specifically organised to investigate new market outlets (Far East, Latin America, Africa, Europe, USA and the bags and accessories market in general). What emerged, with due distinction between countries, was an international landscape that continues to struggle with traditional distribution entrusted to physical stores (especially post-pandemic), in favour of a trend towards digital shopping experiences. A common denominator in almost all markets, from the most mature to those experiencing rapid growth, was the need to diversify their supply chain. From the United States to South East Asia, and passing through Africa, the theme of price and the search for captivating Athleisure products remain the primary focus.

To sum up, in the international footwear market, trade has the dominant hand over production and internal consumption. This means that 2 out of every 3 pairs of shoes worldwide are consumed in a country other than the one in which they were manufactured, and that this ratio has been on the rise for several years.

A figure that confirms the increasingly central role of Expo Riva Schuh & Gardabags, characterised by a strongly international presence on both the production and distribution side.