MILAN — The Italian fashion and textile industry grew less this year than earlier estimates, according to Sistema Moda Italia data.

“This year the industry was expected to grow between 2.5 and 3 percent, but it will actually report a 1.1 percent increase compared to 2014 up to 52.6 billion euros [or about $55.83 billion at current exchange],” said Carlo Marenzi, the association’s president, at a press conference here Tuesday. He pointed to the crisis in Russia, the slowdown in business in China, and the stagnation of the European market as the main reasons for the slower-than-expected growth.

According to SMI’s studies, exports of Italian fashion and textile products will grow 1.9 percent compared to last year.

“Despite the general international situation, the United States, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom performed really well,” said Marenzi. Exports to the U.S and U.K. will increase 20.9 percent and 10.1 percent, respectively, while exports to Hong Kong will post 15.2 percent growth.

In the domestic market, the industry’s sales are expected to see a 2.7 percent decline compared to last year.

“But we can say that October and November have been positive for Italian retailers,” said Marenzi, who revealed that the forecasts for 2016 are cautiously optimistic.

According to SMI, in the first quarter of next year, the sector will register a 2.2 percent increase compared to the same period this year, with exports growing 2.9 percent.  The number of companies operating in the industry will be down 0.2 percent. At the end of 2015, 0.7 percent of the country’s fashion and textile companies will have closed their doors.

“Considering this data, our goal is to understand how we can actually help the small and medium companies operating in our sector,” said SMI councilor Michele Bocchese, highlighting that the association is focusing on two main business projects.

SMI teamed up a year ago with Unicredit to start a collaboration aimed at providing easier access to credit to small and medium companies. The system, which was tested with two firms, Ratti and Herno, allows suppliers to have the same credit benefits as the bigger brands they work for.

In addition, SMI is developing a program in collaboration with consulting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers aimed at promoting re-shoring initiatives. “The goal is to launch two pilot projects, one in Veneto and another in Apulia, to demonstrate the possibility to bring the production back to our country,” Bocchese said.

SMI is also focused on two additional themes — sustainability and internationalization.

The association is working to create a document listing all the harmful substances that shouldn’t be used in the textile and fashion industry, in order to develop a clear communication directed to final customers. It also aims to determine how to create value from the investments made in sustainability.

In addition, SMI is promoting programs focused on developing business in specific markets, including Russia.

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