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Women's dress shoes: Continuing efforts to buoy revenue

Suppliers are reducing R&D budgets and utility expenses, streamlining processes and exporting to alternative markets.

China manufacturers of dressshoes and boots are still struggling to maintain profitability as overseas demand stays low.

Total shipments during the first seven months of 2009 reflect the decrease in orders. According to customs statistics, the country sent abroad 4.5 billion pairs of footwear between January and July, a YoY decline of 8 percent. Sales consequently dropped 7 percent to $14.7 billion.

  
Women's dress shoes
  This dress shoe from Huizhou Yuteng has a PU leather upper and a rubber or TPR platform outsole.
The global economic downturn that struck the line's primary markets contributed greatly to reduced exports. Compounding suppliers' difficulties are the anti-dumping duties imposed by the EU on China-made leather shoes.

Since the taxes were enforced in 2006, the country's shipments to member nations have gone down about 15 percent. Many importers became wary of sourcing from China because of the extra costs.

According to the European Footwear Alliance, prices increase at least 10 percent when the levy is added. EFA affiliates already shelled out roughly 800 million euros or $1.2 billion for tax payments in the past three-and-a-half years.

On Nov. 20, 2009, the EU decided against the extension of anti-dumping duties. This will go to the Member States Council for a final vote, which has not yet taken place at the time of writing.

In the meantime, suppliers continue to adopt cost-cutting measures and revised export strategies in order to afloat. Many companies are now leaning toward OEM production and have allocated less funds to R&D. They are also streamlining operations and lowering utility expenses to generate savings.

Further, several makers are choosing to boost shipments to South Africa, Asia and other nontraditional locations.

Businesses that prefer focusing on the EU avoid the duties by using synthetic leather and textiles in their releases. To maintain current clients, they keep quotes as low as possible even if this means a narrower profit margin.

These steps have been helpful in increasing foreign revenue, albeit only by 1 or 2 percent. Most manufacturers are optimistic that the export situation will improve gradually within the next 12 months.

At present, China is home to about 6,000 makers of dress shoes and boots. The majority is located in Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces, which boast mature up- and downstream industries. The city of Chengdu in Sichuan province is an emerging hub for the line.


Materials, prices & trends
Materials, prices & trends

About 70 percent of dress shoes and boots from China have PU leather uppers. The rest are made of animal hide or textiles. Under the former, the popular choices are action cow split, suede, and pig- and sheepskin.

PU, pigskin, pig split, mesh and fabrics are often used for the lining and insole. Outsoles can come in PVC, PU, TPR or rubber. Wood is sometimes employed for platforms. Heels are typically made of combined PU, TPR and rubber.

Most companies source manufacturing inputs from domestic suppliers. They usually perform visual and other types of tests before sending the materials to their factories. Abrasion resistance, bending strength, and azo and heavy metal content are often evaluated in addition to physical details. Makers consult third-party laboratories such as Intertek and SGS on request.

With sizes ranging from 40 to 46, men's dress shoes are available in various styles, including loafers and oxfords. Prices start at $6.30 per pair and can reach $40, depending on the materials used.

For instance, adopting pig split instead of PU for the lining and insole will raise quotes by $0.37. Likewise, about $0.15 is added when rubber or PU is employed for the outsole in place of TPR.

Boots are mostly in half and calf-length designs. The former is 10 to 15 percent more expensive than dress shoes made of the same materials. Calf-length versions are higher in value by up to 40 percent.

Pumps, d'Orsays and strappy sandals are popular styles among women's formal footwear. Ranging from $3 to $25, prices are determined by what is adopted for the upper, insole, lining and outsole.

Going for $5 to $55, boots come in ankle, calf-length and knee-high types. Their height, which does not include the heel, affects quotes as well.

The latest releases feature simple constructions with minimal trimming. Men's models are often intended to be suitable for both dressy and casual occasions. Visual effects such as crinkles and cracks are achieved via scrubbing, washing, embossing and other treatments.

Similarly, women's styles are mostly unadorned. Round and peep toes are adopted for pumps and d'Orsays. Uppers come in a single shade and can have a patent, glossy or metallic finish.

Black, brown and tan are popular colors, although some suppliers offer products in other neutral tones such as cream, gray and beige. A number of makers also use violet, blue and silver in their designs.

Many companies are projecting that the yuan will appreciate in the months ahead. As a result, the possibility of a price increase is high. Keen competition, however, may compel manufacturers to limit the adjustment to 5 percent, at most.

This article "Women's dress shoes: Continuing efforts to buoy revenue" is originally posted in Global Sources.

Note: All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.

Disclaimer: All product images are provided by the companies interviewed and are for reference purposes only. Those product images featuring products with trademarks, brand names or logos are not intended for sale. We, our affiliates, and our affiliates' respective directors, officers, employees, representatives, agents or contractors, do not accept and will not have any responsibility or liability for product images (or any part thereof) which infringe on any intellectual property or other rights of a third party.

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