The French leather industry experienced healthy growth in exports (+7%) in 2017, with sales continuing to grow since 2009, rising from €5 billion to €10.6 billion.

Despite France experiencing its worst balance of trade since 2011, the French leather industry reduced its own deficit by 13%. Although it is still showing a loss, the balance of trade fell to €955 million in 2017 compared with €1.1 billion in 2016, and €1.4 billion in 2015. The coverage ratio stood at 92%, an increase of six points since 2014.

A similar trend can be seen with imports and exports, as the French leather industry has enjoyed better results than all other sectors. Taking all sectors into account, French customs authorities recorded a 7% rise in imports and a 4.5% rise in exports, whereas imports by the French leather industry were valued at €11.6 billion and rose by just 5%, whilst exports, which represent €10.6 billion, grew by 7%.

Sales to the main clients, namely Italy, Hong Kong, the US and the UK grew by 7%, 13%, 1% and 18% respectively. The footwear and leather goods sectors, which represent 30% and 61% respectively of French exports by the French leather industry, are the best performers at export. Their overseas sales grew by 7% and 9%.

With exports valued at €6.5 billion, up by 9% on 2016, the leather goods industry is in a strong position as one of France’s leading export sectors.

Trade in this sector shows a large surplus (coverage rate of 174%, a rise of three points against 2016). In value terms, France exports much more than it imports, with its main clients being Hong Kong, the US and Singapore. In these three countries, sales increased by 15%, 1% and 12% respectively. Sales of leather goods, which represent 44% of French exports, increased by 9%. Demand from Europe is developing even faster. Exports to the UK (35% of total exports) increased by 13%. Sales in Italy, the UK and Germany benefited from growth of 9%, 19% and 11% respectively.

Overseas demand for French luxury products continues to be high. Sales of luggage and handbags increased by 24% and 10% respectively. The average transaction value of exported handbags increased by 16%, rising to €477 for leather bags and €85 for bags made from other materials.

The proportion of French imports coming from Europe is showing an increase, while the proportion coming from Asia is reducing. Imports from Europe and Asia represent 49% and 46% respectively (against 45% and 50% in 2015 and 47% and 48% in 2016).

The slowdown in Asian imports into France can be largely explained by the reduction in imports from China, which shrank by 7% in 2016 and 3% in 2017. China was the largest supplier to France but has been overtaken by Italy, whose sales to France have increased by 15%.

Imports of articles from Europe (€5.7 billion) increased by 11% while those from Asia (€5.4 billion) increased by 1%. Imports from Vietnam (third largest supplier to France), India (5th) and Indonesia (7th) grew by 9%, 2% and 3% respectively, compensating for the slowdown in orders to China. The average price of a pair of shoes (not including slippers) from these countries stands at €18, €17 and €23, whereas it is €7 for a Chinese pair.

France imported 79.4 million hand bags, some 6.8 million fewer than in 2016. Deliveries of Asian handbags (64.6 million) fell by 8.6 million items. In contrast, deliveries of handbags coming from the EU (11 million items) increased by 1.6 million. This change in the source of imported hand bags is accompanied by a clear increase in price. The average transaction value of a handbag has leaped by 17%.

Frank Boehly, president of the Conseil National du Cuir: "We are delighted by the strong overseas demand for handbags made by our luxury houses. This constant growth has led to the opening of new workshops in France and the creation of new jobs."