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Return of physical events boosts footwear exports

After a period with no participation in physical events, the footwear sector starts 2022 celebrating the resumption of international footwear fairs, which were on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Brazilian presence in physical fairs and commercial missions is a fundamental part of the internationalization strategy for the sector, which has in Brazilian Footwear, a program developed by the Brazilian Association of Footwear Industries (Abicalçados) in partnership with the Brazilian Agency for the Promotion of Exports and Investments (ApexBrasil), the development of actions and projects with the goal of multiplying the “made in Brazil” shoes across the world.

Abicalçados' Chief Executive, Haroldo Ferreira, highlights that the sector's exports, which were boosted from the cooling of the Covid-19 pandemic in the second half of last year, have been the engine of the activity's growth. In the first quarter alone, Brazilian footwear companies added the shipment of 40.74 million pairs, which generated US$ 320.65 million, up 27.3% in volume and 65.8% in revenue compared to the same period last year. "Exports showed a recovery dynamics much higher than the growth of domestic demand, and last year we recovered to shipments registered in the pre-pandemic, with more than 123 million pairs shipped”, he comments. According to him, the expectation is to confirm the growth by the end of the year. “The expectation is to end 2022 with 9% of average increase in shipments compared to 2021 (in volume)”, he says.

In addition to the increased international demand, especially from the United States, Ferreira attributes the optimism in exports to the resumption of physical fairs and trade missions. The first shows of the year – Expo Riva Schuh (Italy), Playtime (USA), Magic Las Vegas (USA), Atlanta Shoe Market (USA), Magic NY (USA) and Micam (Italy) – generated more than US$ 38 million in business. “International fairs play a key role in the resumption. Expectations are the best possible," concludes the executive. By the end of the year, Brazilian Footwear plans to participate in 10 more international fairs in Italy and the United States, as well as trade missions in Colombia.

Arezzo: "We go to the fair to meet our customers”
Exporting about 12% of its daily production of more than 85 thousand pairs of shoes, Arezzo&Co, from Campo Bom/RS, is one of the main footwear players in Brazil. Highlighting the importance of returning to international physical events to further boost exports, the group's export manager, Luis Germann, says that shipments grew 74% in 2021, compared to 2020, and that they continue to grow in the first months of the year. “In 2022, we continue to grow, especially in the North American market, where we have a significant volume of exports of the Schutz brand-one of the group's 18 brands,” he says.

According to Germann, in 2021, with the cooling of Covid-19, the company was present at physical fairs in the United States and Italy. The definitive resumption of participation with their own team in 2022, according to the manager, was a reason for celebration in the company. “Physical fairs are very relevant and are part of the group's strategy, especially for the prospecting of new international customers. In addition to online events, they are events that allow a more effective presentation of our brands, as well as providing a closer and more personal relationship with buyers. We go to the fairs to charm our customers," he says. At Micam, an Italian fair held in early March, the company added R$ 4 million in business.

Germann says that although the company adopts omnichannel strategies for international expansion, physical fairs are ideal places for prospecting buyers who do not yet have a relationship with the group. “In addition, there is greater effectiveness in business when meetings are in person. For maintenance, we use digital tools, where we have evolved a lot, but for prospecting, the physical fairs are still a great differential for the export strategy”, stresses the manager, emphasizing the support of the Brazilian Footwear program in these actions.

Adrun: "Our industry like to feel the product”
With a production of four thousand pairs daily, with 40% of them exported to more than 50 countries, Adrun, from Birigui/ SP, has increased the percentage of footwear shipped, year by year, since it started the internationalization process, in 2015. The partnership with Abicalçados, through Brazilian Footwear, was fundamental to the process.

The company's export manager, Valdomiro Pinese Junior, says that physical events are fundamental to Adrun's export strategy. “Participation in the shows facilitates the maintenance and prospecting of customers. We would not be able to make all the necessary trips to visit all our buyers. In the events, these meetings are concentrated," he says. For prospecting, or even launching new collections, Junior says that being present at the physical event helps conducting business. “Our customer likes to feel the product, likes to hold it, try it on. Only the physical event can provide this", adds the manager, noting that the company is working to add another international fair to the participation portfolio – which already has Expo Riva Schuh and Micam: the American Fair Atlanta Shoe Market.

Regarding the most recent international participation in Micam, Junior points out that the resumption has not yet occurred completely, because some restrictions still persist that ended up impacting the visitation. “For the upcoming fairs, we believe in an improvement in the situation. We are already forwarding our return to Micam (September) and also to Expo Riva Schuh (June)”, he adds. For 2022, with the normalization of international flows, the company expects to increase the exported share to 45% to 55%. “Some obstacles persist, such as higher freight costs and higher raw material costs, but the company has been acting to reduce the effects. This year, we bought an EVA manufacturing machine to reduce costs. I believe that with greater stability in the international market, we can continue to grow in 2022”, projects the manager.
 
Bottero: closer relationship
The footwear manufacturer Bottero, from Parobe / RS, is another important player in the sector that has as part of its international expansion extrategy the participation in fairs. “We have always maintained and prospected our international customers at physical fairs. We've had a time without shows, due to the covid-19 pandemic. We were doing this work in a virtual way, but without the same strength. Since last year, through representatives, we have been to the fairs in Italy – Expo Riva Schuh and Micam. The movement was smaller, we had no presence of our own team, but the business happened," says the company's export manager, Paulina Klein.
From the resumption of presential fairs, Paulina points out that there has been an increase in negotiations, especially for countries in Europe and the United States. "Bottero's exports, which absorb a 15% share of our production (of 15 thousand pairs per day), have been fundamental for the recovery of post-pandemic business, especially in the international market”, she assesses.

According to Paulina, at the first two fairs of the year, Expo Riva Schuh and Micam, both in Italy, the company achieved good results, although with an even lower visitation than in pre-pandemic years. “We are coming out of a pandemic and now we have the influence of the Ukraine/Russia war, which ends up inhibiting visitations, especially from customers from Eastern Europe. But we believe in a recovery of these fairs still in 2022," she says. According to her, at Italian fairs, in addition to opening important customers, as is the case of Belarus, meetings were provided with buyers who had not appeared for two years. “The physical fair is fundamental, it allows us a greater proximity, narrows the relationship and fidelizes buyers”, she points out, emphasizing that Brazilian Footwear is a relevant support for participations. "Support is not only in the financial aspect, which is important, but also with all the necessary support”, concludes the manager.

Anatomical Gel: the gear is turning again
Another company optimistic about the resumption in exports, packed by the increase in shipments, especially to Europe, is Anatomic Gel, from Franca/SP. With a production of two thousand pairs daily, with 25% shipped to the international market, with most customers in Europe, Latin American countries, the United States and Asia, Anatomic Gel has an important presence abroad.

The director of Anatomic Limited – a partner company that exports Anatomic Gel –, João Conrado, points out that export results in 2021 had already exceeded pre-pandemic levels, and that now, from the increase in international demand and physical events, performance should improve even more. “We recovered pre-pandemic levels in the second half of last year. The year starts with very positive prospects," he says, adding that the company has created a warehouse with dry customs in the United Kingdom and a sales office in Ireland to resolve the barriers caused by Brexit (United Kingdom's, home country of the Office of Anatomic Limited, exit from the European Union). “High freight costs and the delay in deliveries from Asia, which has caused customers in the United States, Europe and Latin America to seek footwear from alternative suppliers to Asians, should also impact the business. In this process, our industry should become more competitive", he assesses.

The most recent Fair with the participation of Anatomic Gel was Micam, in Italy. Despite a smaller movement, Conrado says that business happened, with the visitation of more than 100 relevant players from 27 countries. "Micam is very important for Anatomic Gel's strategy. The fair surprised us positively, because despite the reduced size compared to previous editions, it had a large presence of international buyers”, he comments. According to him, the return to face-to-face events will be fundamental for the recovery of Brazilian exports. "The gear is turning again," he celebrates.

International branch of Abicalçados, maintained with the support of ApexBrasil, Brazilian Footwear has a fundamental role for the internationalization of Brazilian footwear brands. For the next biennium, the agreement will invest more than R$ 35 million in commercial and image promotion actions for Brazilian footwear manufacturers abroad.  



About Brazilian Footwear:
Brazilian Footwear is an export incentive program developed by Abicalçados in partnership with ApexBrasil. This program aims to increase the presence of the Brazilian industry and its brands in the international market through development actions, commercial promotion and image. Read more: www.brazilianfootwear.com.br | www.abicalcados.com.br/brazilianfootwear.

About ApexBrasil: 
Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (ApexBrasil) is the Brazilian government’s trade and investment promotion agency. Regarding the investment activity, we support international investors as they analyze the opportunities to establish a plant in Brazil, start a partnership with a Brazilian company, or commit capital in Brazil through funds and companies. Our goal is to satisfy investors needs and generate results as we attract technology, innovation, new companies and generate jobs in Brazil. Learn more: https://apexbrasil.com.br/br/en.html#home