MILAN — While the economy remains uncertain, Italy’s textile and clothing association, Sistema Moda Italia, said the first quarter saw signs a turnaround may be coming.

This story first appeared in the May 4, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

According to research by SMI based on a survey of 130 companies, Italy’s textile and fashion sector registered sales in the first quarter that were in line with the same period in 2009, inching down 0.2 percent. After a series of negative quarters, the textile industry saw a 4.7 percent gain in revenues. The ready-to-wear industry registered a sales decline of 3.5 percent, however. Actual sales figures were not available.

Orders, both in Italy and abroad, saw a 3.2 percent rise in the period. In particular, domestic demand surged 3.5 percent, while demand from outside Italy increased 1.6 percent. SMI noted textile orders rose 7.1 percent, while clothing grew 0.8 percent.

Michele Tronconi, SMI’s president, described the crisis in 2009 as “a strong global earthquake, initiated by bad American finance. The worst seems to be behind us, but the aftershocks continue and are scary.”

In 2009, the country’s textile and clothing industry registered revenues of 45.2 billion euros, or $62.8 billion at average exchange rates, down 16.5 percent compared with the previous year.

Exports fell 20.3 percent to 22.1 billion euros, or $30.7 billion.

“The uncertainty remains and the pace of the markets is jerky,” said Tronconi, also pointing to the difficulties related to building inventories as the demand in Asia has picked up, “making raw materials such as wool, silk and cotton scarce and costly.”

Tronconi also urged the industry to be “flexible and fast” as he sees the cost of oil per barrel hardly reaching lower than $20 again, and “distances will be important again,” pointing to Italy’s manufacturing chain. Tronconi said he believes “international trade will continue to [request] raw materials and finished merchandise,” while “semifinished products to be transformed where it costs less” will not be as much in demand.

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