The Italian footwear industry is on the upswing, thanks in part to a strong U.S. dollar and surging demand in the American market. But a worsening European energy crisis, China challenges and the continuing Russia-Ukraine war continue to fuel anxiety, top executives said this week at Micam in Milan.
“The industry as a whole has seen significant recovery, but high energy costs, raw materials costs and the consequences of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine are putting short-term growth at risk,” said Giovanna Ceolini, chair of Assocalzaturifici, the Italian shoe industry organization. “Our member companies are satisfied with sales to North America and the main EU markets, though spring lockdowns slowed sales in China. (Half of Assocalzaturifici’s companies have not returned to pre-covid levels, Ceolini said.)
Salina Ferretti, CEO at Falc SpA, views the obstacles as part of the new normal. “Europe has been through so many crises. The problems come faster, but also the solutions. I’m an optimist,” she said, noting that business at the show had been strong across the company’s portfolio of brands, which include Naturino, Voile Blanche, W6YZ, Flower Mountain and more.
Karl Schlecht, co-founder at heritage comfort brand Thierry Rabotin, said one key factor is determining sales performance right now. “The more expensive you are, the more you sell,” he said.
The brand continues to forge stronger ties with its most important independents in the U.S., including Tip Top Shoes, Hanig’s Footwear and Harry’s Shoes among others. In the DTC era, Schlecht believes personalized customer service and unique brand selection continues to set these stores apart.
Mark Denkler, president of the National Shoe Retailers Association, agreed that differentiation has never been more important for independents, and he was attending Micam to help NSRA members find new partners and take advantage of high-margin opportunities. “Here you can take those chances on different colors and interpretations,” he said, noting that he had found new resources from Italy, Spain, Turkey and Germany while scouting the show.
David Assil, owner of longtime Los Angeles store Madison, continues to build his Madison Maison private label business, which is designed in house and produced in small artisanal factories across Italy. (Assil also sources from Italian tanneries).
During the show, the storeowner exhibited his collection of embellished loafers, produced in partnership with Italian factory Mara Bini.
“The collaboration with Mara Bini is one we are extremely proud of. The construction and professionalism of the factory is second to none,” he said. “This is just the beginning of the story. We are working on several projects which will soon come to life.”