Source: eKapija | Wednesday, 13.07.2016.| 14:34
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Footwear manufacture reduced to mere survival – Footwear industry imperiled by unfair competition, dependence on the import, high taxes...

(Photo: Nejron Photo/shutterstock.com)
The footwear industry in Serbia has long since lost its former glory. The sale of the formerly largest European factory serves as a reminder of this fact. Industrija Obuce Beograd got its new owner at the beginning of July 2016 for a mere EUR 176,100. Numerous well known footwear factories have been closed in the past two decades, and, as the Association of Textile, Garments, Leather and Footwear Industry at the Chamber of Commerce of Serbia (CCIS) explains for eKapija, the reason for this is illegal privatization and mass import of Chinese shoes, which, though significantly lower in quality, find their way to the buyers easily due to low prices. They cite as an example the fact that, of around forty manufacturers in Kragujevac, there are currently only a few workshops left which manufacture and sell footwear.

– The footwear industry of Serbia currently consists of around 300 enterprises, in which around 10,000 workers are employed, mainly female workforce. This industry is oriented towards the export and dependent on the import – they claim in the CCIS.

The data shows that the leather and footwear industry's import amounted to USD 435.7 million in 2015, which is 10% more than in 2014. The foreign trade balance is negative and amounts to USD 120.4 million.

In 2015, leather and footwear manufacturers produced less by 16.1% relative to 2014. The supplies are larger by 4.7%, and the realization smaller by 17.4%.

Ceco Line from Novi Pazar has been producing footwear for over 20 years. Depending on the demand, they produce up to 300 pairs of shoes a day. The production facility in Novi Pazar makes 25,000 pairs of shoes a year, meant for local buyers and the markets in former Yugoslavia, Russia and Germany, and 80% is meant for the export.

Senad Avdovic, owner of the company, says that the crisis has reduced the manufacture to a minimum for mere survival.

– It keeps getting worse and many shoemakers are giving up and switching to other professions. We are not satisfied with our business activities, we are managing to survive, but it's a constant struggle.

(Photo: optimarc/shutterstock.com)
Manufacturers are forced to import basic raw materials (leather of all kinds), which cannot be found in the local market. The processing facilities have been closed, and only two of the former 27 factories for tanning and leather processing are currently in operation in Serbia – leather factory Ruma in the eponymous city (sold to Italians and currently selling only small amounts of the remaining supplies) and Dafar in Zrenjanin. The majority of both, however, is owned by foreigners and they process leather for famous world brands and their own needs. Our manufacturers of leather goods and footwear import materials from Italy, where leather is well finished or expensive, or from Turkey.

The CCIS points out that the local livestock population is getting smaller each year, which means that it will only become harder to get quality raw hide in Serbia in the period to follow.

In addition to the lack of raw materials, the manufacturers are troubled by unfair competition, gray economy, high taxes and the lack of qualified young workforce. They see the solution in increased customs and inspection supervision, the lowering of income taxes and other para-fiscal charges, the stimulation of the export and the improvement of education.

– The state won't listen. It should take more care that the declarations are followed, since the quality of goods in the market varies. Local manufacturers should come first and the state should improve the manufacture through loans or the lowering of income taxes, as it has been done in B&H – Avdovic points out and notes that it is necessary to react as soon as possible in order to remain competitive.

In addition to enterprises which produce their own brands exclusively, a large number of manufacturers in Serbia makes footwear or shoe parts for famous world brands through toll manufacturing. Though it may seem glamorous that Prada or Valentino shoes are being manufactured in Serbia, the experts warn that this isn't a recipe for reviving the industry.

– Serbia's developmental perspective cannot be based on toll manufacturing, since it makes very little money for the manufacturers, as the added value level is low, and there's strong competition in the international market – they say in the CCIS.

They note in the CCIS that the strategy for the development of competitiveness is based on the significant reduction or even the discontinuation of mass production and simple products and that the emphasis should be put on the quality and the design. Also, considering that it's mostly small family businesses that are manufacturing footwear, they need help in finding purchasers for getting their products to foreign markets. The CCIS is obliged by the law to help them.

Manufacturers and trade

All kinds of footwear are produced in Serbia: male and female, designer leather shoes, sports shoes, shoes for children, rubber, plastic and protective shoes for various professions.

The companies which have managed to persevere in the market and are successfully manufacturing footwear, according to the data by the CCIS, are: Gepard Novi Sad, Mineks Vranje, Fratelli Babb Obrenovac, R.V. Belgrade, Marko Belgrade, MUBB Belgrade, Dijana Cuprija, Aleksandar Cuprija, Tigar Pirot, Ukus Kovacica, Kanin Nis, Bosa, Ceco Line Novi Pazar and others. Significant manufacturers of children's footwear are: Baldino Belgrade, Pavle Bela Palanka, Grubin, Grey Stara Pazova, Pantarei Kragujevac, Vumo Ugrinovci, Leon Sabac, Milami Pozarevac, Pollino Zemun.

Foreign companies which manufacture footwear in Serbia are: Progeti Vladimirci, Falc East Knjazevac, GEOX Vranje, Insert Ruma, Leonardo Subotica and others.

Over 50% of the export of the leather and footwear industry of Serbia is directed to the Italian market, from which most of the import comes too, around 40%.

Ivana Bezarević

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