According to ECO, Portuguese footwear exports to the US should approach €100 million this year, compared to €75 million in 2021, with this being “the moment of truth” for the sector in the US market, the APICCAPS association stated.

“With the dollar down, this is the moment of truth for Portuguese footwear in what is the biggest market in the world. The numbers confirm this strategic option”, maintains the Portuguese Association of Footwear, Components, Leather Articles and Substitutes (APICCAPS) in a newsletter. “This is our moment in the North American market”, emphasises the association's president, Luís Onofre.

According to APICCAPS data, in 2021 the US imported 2,423 million pairs of shoes, worth 28,300 million dollars (about 28,301 million euros, at the current exchange rate), with China standing out (63% share in quantity), Vietnam (22%) and Indonesia (5%) as the main suppliers.

Even so, he points out, “the main European players continue to open up the market”, an example of which is the Portuguese case: After exports grew by 15.1% in 2021, to 75 million euros, in the first half of this year, sales of national footwear for the USA increased by 66%, to 54 million euros, with each pair being sold at an average price of 36.86 euros.

“The American market is, at this stage, the sixth destination market for Portuguese footwear exports, but it is particularly close to the relevance of the United Kingdom”, highlights the association. Cited by APICCAPS, market specialist Leslie Gallin points to the USA as “a great opportunity for Portuguese companies”.

Looking for new products

“American retailers are looking for new products and new players in the market, capable of creating lasting partnerships and good business opportunities. There is a growing demand for new brands, new products and Portugal has all the characteristics to be able to succeed”, maintains the former president of the marketing services and fashion events company UBM.

Gallin warns, however, that the focus on the North American market must be consistent: “Nothing happens overnight. As with any business, it takes a plan – at least a three-year plan – and a lot of dedication.” According to her, the search for “a local representative or agent is the most traditional way, but it also carries risks”, and the important thing is “to be part of the industry in the USA, to create a relationship with buyers or with trade associations”.

According to the Federation of North American Footwear Retailers and Distributors (FDRA), US footwear consumption reached a new all-time high in 2021. Speaking to World Footwear, FDRA President Matt Priest attributes this to on the one hand, the sector's ability to offer “products suited to demand” and, on the other hand, the “general good economic performance of the country itself”, driven by “strong assistance from the Government”.