Footwear invested 31.1 million euros to prepare for a new cycle. The biggest slice was for smart manufacturing, as you can see these days at the Milan fair.
Ninety Portuguese companies are in Milan, the biggest footwear fair in the world, which ends Thursday, as a living sample of what has to offer a sector that is preparing to start a new cycle.
Portuguese industrial leader Luís Onofre will be the next president of the European confederation and opened Portuguese participation in MICAM with a peer warning to be "more resilient" in 2019, a year he envisions surrounded by a more difficult environment.
But to evaluate the latest investments made by entrepreneurs, there is reason to believe that the Portuguese sector is preparing for the big change. This is what Portugal showed in Milan, with companies such as Procalçado - Producer of Footwear Components, and this is what examples of other companies like AMF Shoes or Zouri, who do not participate in this fair, suggest because they are not linked to footwear. fashion.
In the last two years, national companies have put in € 20.2 million in smart manufacturing projects, accounting for 65% of the 31.1 million euro investment channeled so far for the FOOTure 4.0 program, which is designed to adapt one of the sectors of the Portuguese economy to the new consumer trends and demands of the world economy.
Presented in March 2017, at a time when the Portuguese sector was still living in the euphoria of eight consecutive years of export growth in volume and revenues, FOOTure 4.0 foresaw an initial allocation of 50 million euros by 2020. Two years later, already executed more than half of this initial budget, with a greater preponderance for investments in flexible production systems, automatic cutting programming, CAD / CAM systems, digital prototyping, 3D printing and 3D scanner.
This result shows that the sector did not fall asleep in the shadow of the good results of the past, although the results of exports in 2018 have come to curb somewhat. Minister Pedro Siza Vieira, who visited several members of the Portuguese delegation at MICAM, echoed the reasons that APICCAPS has invoked to explain why there was a slight decrease in the volume of sales abroad, even though more pairs of shoes were exported in this area. year. In essence, as PÚBLICO explained in December, this results from a change in consumer preferences, looking for footwear in synthetic materials, which led the Portuguese industry to respond with more sales of these articles, whose price is lower than the articles in leather, in which the Portuguese sector is traditionally strong.
The minister recommends to the sector a reinforcement in the external promotion and the conquest of new markets, being confident in the capacity of response of the entrepreneurs. But those who have returned to the US this month to explore one of the foreign markets they have chosen as strategic need to improve margins as the average export price fell, at a time when Portugal was only behind Italy in the Lux. On the other hand, important destinations for domestic production (France, Germany, Angola, United Kingdom and the Netherlands) fell in 2018, according to INE data, and neither China's strong growth (more than 70% increase in sales) pressure on a sector that measures forces with colossi such as Italy and Spain.
In evaluating what has been seen in the Portuguese delegation at MICAM, which closes on Thursday, external promotion remains a strategic goal. And the same is true of the investment data revealed by APICCAPS, which reserved € 16 million for this task in 2019.
The largest share (36%) of projects applying for European funds (Portugal 2020) between 2015 and 2018 was channeled to attendance at fairs and exhibitions abroad (41.7 million). This was followed by investment in machinery and equipment (13% of the total, 15.5 million) and international promotion and marketing (13%, 15.2 million).
In these three years, 278 companies saw approved projects, a sample that represents around 50% of national production and which is responsible for 13,630 jobs in Portugal.
As for the FOOTure 4.0 program, the innovation of the customer experience absorbed 4.6 million euros (15% of the 31.1 million executed until December). This means that there are more companies equipped with CRM programs, which allows to improve the management of customers, a bet of growing relevance in the face of the increasing digitalization of commerce and production. On the other hand, there are more brands with online sales channels and e-commerce platforms than there were before this program, which opens new sales channels in a highly competitive and globalized market.