In 2003 total sales in German footwear retailing stood at approximately €8.7 billion, making Germany one of the top export destinations. A study by HDS, the Confederation of German Shoe Manufacturers, showed that imports from China as well as Brazil, Romania, India and Macau, rose significantly in the first six months of 2004 compared with the same period in 2003. The UK managed to nearly triple its exports (14,412,000 pairs) to Germany.

According to the organisers of GDS, the global shoe market is undergoing profound changes but also offering new opportunities and growth potential. The ‘winner’ in this game is Asia while Europe is now facing significant losses.

Shoe output worldwide is still rising (from 9.99 billion pairs in 1995 to 12.9 billion in 2003). By 2010 total global output is forecast to reach 15 billion pairs. Since 1995 European production has dropped by 19% (to 1.158 billion pairs in 2003) while over the same period Asian output has grown by 48% (to 9.85 billion pairs in 2003). This means that Asia currently accounts for 76% of annual global footwear production.

For the EU this translates into strong import growth – by 16.8% to 1.29 billion pairs in 2003. At the same time exports to third (non-EU) countries were down by 13.5% to 190.8 million pairs. As a result, the European shoe manufacturing industry is affected by serious structural changes and is currently suffering painful declines in output and exports.

China not only ranks first in exports but also in terms of manufacturing; within as little as one decade the awakening industrial giant has shown an almost 30% growth. This corresponds to total sales of 13 billion shoes.