MILAN — The Italian shoe industry is still plagued by the country’s economic crisis.

During the Assocalzaturifici’s annual conference on Tuesday, Cleto Sagripanti, president of the Italian footwear manufacturers’ association, emphasized that in the first months of 2013, domestic demand for shoes was down year-on-year, causing job losses in the sector.

According to Italy’s national statistics bureau Istat, at the end of March the number of people working in the footwear business dropped 1.2 percent from 79,254 to 78,295 employees, compared to December. In addition, 83 shoe manufacturers have gone out of business since the end of 2012.

Despite difficulties in the domestic market, Italian shoe exports increased 5.3 percent in the first two months of the year, generating 1.5 billion euros, or $1.95 billion at current exchange, in sales. Exports within Europe and to the U.S. were stable, while Italian footwear exports to Russia, China and Japan increased substantially.

Sagripanti outlined Assocalzaturifici’s strategy to beat challenges posed by the economy and affirm Italian companies’ supremacy in the footwear business. She said it was necessary to continuously support entrepreneurs in boosting their business abroad with the expansion of trade shows, including Micam, and minor events in Russia, Germany and Japan, and develop an Assocalzaturifici research center to provide associates with clear, detailed business and trend studies. Sagripanti also highlighted the importance of fighting to have the European Commission, Europe’s executive branch, approve laws that would require labeling product origin.

“The fight against forgery is the flag we wave in all the institutional places which are supposed to defend our production, our employees and our customers, who want to be sure that the products they buy are Made in Italy,” Sagripanti said.

During the press conference, Franca Sozzani, Vogue Italia’s editor in chief, also said that if Italian companies want to emerge internationally, they should invest in creativity and offer young people chances to improve their skills and express their talent. 

“Research is key to success and developing a brand image is fundamental for talking about product research,” Sozzani said. “Research also means investing in young people — as I look around, I realize we have been the same crowd for 25 years. It’s time to make space for new voices.”

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