Despite the forecasts beforehand, the leather goods fair ended its February 2020 edition with a + 11% increase in admissions compared to the February 2019 edition which becomes a + 22% if we also consider visitors at Fieramilano Rho coming from fairs held simultaneously like Micam and Homi, or others like Lineapelle and Simac held at the same time only partially. The feared Coronavirus effect, whose diffusion on those dates still concerned only China, at Mipel was limited to a minor flow of visitors from the Far East and was largely compensated by the increase in European buyers with a strong presence of Ukrainians and Russians. The internationality of the exhibition in Milan (with 50% of foreign visitors) which hosted the new winter collections of about 300 brands was in any case very high.
“The positive numbers are also the result of the synergistic path undertaken with the other events – recognises Franco Gabbrielli, chairman of Mipel and Assopellettieri -. The collaboration has made it possible to face a certainly difficult moment for international business: it needs to continue in an ever stronger way. This is Italy that works and teams up to obtain important results”.
But let’s take a look at the latest data of the sector. In an international macroeconomic context with no new difficulties, the Italian leather sector – seen as a whole – achieved definitely positive results in 2019, driven once again by exports. In a year largely characterised by the contraction of international trade and the attenuation of world growth, foreign sales of leather goods have reached new absolute records in value, with a consequent significant consolidation of the trade balance, showing a vitality unfortunately unknown to the domestic market, which instead recorded yet another decline in household purchases. In the first 10 months of the year, exports grew by +25.8% in value over the same period of 2018, with a definitely limited increase in terms of volume (+0.8%) and a huge increase in average prices (+24.7%). Within the sector dynamics, such very diverging trend between quantity and value reflects the increasingly fundamental role played by international luxury brands, as shown by the figures relating to exports towards Switzerland (traditional logistic-distribution platform for global fashion brands), even doubled in value (+ 102.6%). Net of flows towards this market, sector-specific exports would in fact increase by a modest +2.5% and slightly decrease in volumes (-0.3%).
A more detailed data examination allows us to highlight how this growth hides the presence of “two speeds” within the national production reality, whose structure is made up of a large number of very small companies (70% has no more than 5 employees), for many of which the year just ended reserved results that were very far from the average double-digit figures shown above.
The analysis of material exports highlights significant increases in value both for goods made of leather (+21.7%, which cover three quarters of the national export value) and for those in substitute material (+ 40.8%). But the leather goods sector – characteristic of Made in Italy productions – shows a little comforting contraction in quantity (-5.2%), with negative signs for bags (-4.8%) and small leather goods dropped by -5.8%. The export of non-leather products, instead, is also being strengthened in volumes (+ 6.4%), with a +10.5% for bags.