The scene at Pitti Uomo 97.

The global pandemic that shook the world in 2020 severely hit the Italian men’s fashion industry.

According to research conducted by Confindustria Moda and released by trade show organizer Pitti Immagine, the Italian men’s fashion sector is expected to close 2020 with revenues down 18.6 percent to 8.3 billion euros. In 2019, with revenues of 10.1 billion euros, it accounted for 18.1 percent of the Italian fashion and textile industry and 28 percent of the country’s ready-to-wear sales. The research also highlighted that the value of Made in Italy production in the men’s fashion sector is expected to be down 18.9 percent compared to 2019.

“The figures don’t take into account the month of December and, to be honest, I think that final data might be even more negative than these forecasts,” said Pitti Immagine chief executive officer Raffaello Napoleone. Pitti Uomo will inaugurate on Tuesday, in collaboration with Brunello Cucinelli, the 99th edition of the men’s trade show, kicking off digitally with the Pitti Connect platform.

In 2020, the breakout of the pandemic across the globe caused a dramatic slowdown in export sales, which, according to Confidustria’s forecasts, will be down 16.7 percent to 5.9 billion euros, compared to the previous year.

In the first nine months of 2020, exports of men’s fashion items, which account for almost 71 percent of the sector’s total sales, decreased 17.3 percent. While the losses were more limited in some European countries, including Switzerland and Germany, where Italian men’s fashion exports were down 6.2 and 9.2 percent respectively, results were much more negative in the U.S. and Asia. In the nine-month period ending at the end of September, exports toward the U.S. dropped 27.9 percent, while those directed to China and Hong Kong decreased 17.2 and 31.2 percent, respectively. The negative performances affected all the product categories. In particular, the exports of suits and separates were down 18.2 percent, those of knitwear dropped 14 percent, the international sales of shirts and leather goods decreased 21.5 and 18.5 percent, respectively, while the exports of ties were down 40 percent.

In Italy, the men’s sector is expected to close 2020 with a 22.3 percent decrease in local sales. In the first six months of the year, they were down 37.5 percent. The pandemic boosted a negative trend that was already visible during the fall 2019 season, which closed right before the breakout of the coronavirus emergency in Italy and which registered a 3.5 percent decrease of the sell-out compared to the same period the previous year. During the fall 2019 season, retail chains and e-commerce emerged as the most successful commercial channels, up 5.3 and 24.5 percent, respectively, while the business of independent retailers decreased 12.6 percent.   

“I don’t expect 2021 to be easy but at the same time I feel optimistic and positive since I perceive in fashion companies a great desire to restart and develop new projects,” Napoleone said, adding that he expects 2021 to be defined by “a slow, gradual growth.”

According to Napoleone, two elements will be key for the industry this year. First of all, the vaccination campaign that has just kicked off in Europe and which will probably give the first results this summer, and second, the fact that the European Union and the U.K. signed a free trade agreement which won’t penalize the Italian men’s fashion export sales to the U.K., which are valued at more than 470 million euros.

See also: 

With the Coronavirus Spiking in Italy, Domestic Consumption Drops

Facing Unprecedented Times: Italian Executives Discuss Their Strategies

Pitti Uomo Postponed to February