A unique situation has developed in the footwear industry in Russia: there is a chance to catch up with global factories in technological development, replace imports by at least half and remove dependence on exchange rates, writes Anton Titov, director of Obuv Rossii Group of Companies in his article on slon.ru.
According to the Federal Customs Service, in the first two months of 2014, imports of goods decreased compared to the same period in 2013 by 10,1%, to $ 40,7 billion. Russia is gradually learning to produce goods within the country, which is also facilitated by a new round of ruble devaluation.
Nevertheless, now more than 80% of the footwear market is still accounted for by imported footwear. The market is highly dependent on fluctuations in the ruble exchange rate: by the end of the first half of the year, the cost of foreign-made footwear will grow by 12-15%, the same leap may occur for the fall-winter 2014 collection if the ruble devaluation continues. This pushes up the production of footwear in Russia (in 2013, the growth rate was more than 10%), especially since in 2009 duties on the import of industrial equipment for shoemakers were canceled and some factories managed to carry out technical re-equipment.
Russia has all the conditions to produce high-quality footwear in the mid-price segment, without competing with cheap Chinese manufacturers and high fashion in Italy, Anton Titov believes. The volume of this segment is 200-220 million pairs of shoes. The only problem is the lack of components: several Russian factories cannot meet the needs of shoe factories in different types of leather, soles and accessories.
“But most of the components for shoe production can be produced in Russia, Titov is sure. The material for the production of soles - thermoplastic elastomer - is a petrochemical product, you can organize the production of leather and fabrics. But all this requires special sectoral development programs. "
So now Russia has every chance to revive its own shoe production. New technologies will allow domestic producers to step two steps and even outstrip China and Europe in technology. Just a few years ago, equipment for automatic cutting and sewing of shoes appeared, earlier these operations were performed manually. Today one automatic cutting table can replace the work of 4-5 cutters. Russian manufacturers may have time to make a leap forward, since not all foreign factories, including those in China, have managed to switch to a new technological base.
Technical re-equipment will increase labor productivity (at least twice), increase output and improve the quality of finished products. Automation will reduce the share of wages in the cost of production, and this is a key point in competition with imports from Asia.
The high rate of training for light industry specialists (training is on average 2-3 years) will quickly solve the personnel problem. “Look at the experience of China, too,” Titov gives an example, “the modern footwear industry was created from scratch in 15–20 years.”
The huge domestic market already allows us to compete with imported goods in price with comparable quality and design. “It is quite possible for Russian manufacturers to occupy 40% of the footwear market - this is exactly the share of the mid-price segment, and its volume is about $ 12 billion,” Titov says.
There are large shoe companies in Russia that have sufficient financial resources and are ready to invest in development. So, the high-tech factory S-TEP produces footwear that is not inferior in quality to Ecco footwear, while it is half the price. In the spring, Obuv Rossii Group of Companies launched a three-year program to modernize the factory with a budget of $ 20 million. fur, etc.), the footwear industry will move forward quickly, ”says Anton Titov.