Road to America

The approach to the fashion sector on the most important market worldwide has already begun.

The Clothing and Footwear sector, through APICCAPS and ANIVEC (National Association of Clothing and Apparel Industry), with the collaboration of AICEP and the support of the COMPETE 2020 Program, have already initiated the plan “Road to America”. This was, precisely, the theme of the conference organized by the two entities and marked the beginning of the most ambitious Portuguese offensive towards the American market.
In the last seven years, the Portuguese footwear sales to the USA and Canada have gone from 13 to 99 million euros, by the end of last year (increase of 662%). In the clothing sector, the behavior is similar. Yet, the growth potential is endless. To João Maia, APICCAPS’ Director General, “in Europe, the purchase power is centered in Milan, London, Berlin and Paris. Here we have concentrated a quarter of our potential clients and, thinking of responsiveness, these is our market”. For that reason, “the footwear industry exports almost 90% of its production to those countries”. However, “there are restrictions and our efforts must now be focused on the approach to other markets”.

Luís Figueiredo, ANIVEC’s Vice President, reminds that “the American economy is undergoing a favorable period and imports from China are declining”. Broadly speaking, the Americans spend, on average, just 3.3% of their budget in clothing and footwear, which is a lower value than the European average. Luís Figueiredo pointed out, however, that “the specialized retail has already a higher significance than on the national department stores and the e-commerce is already reaching the more traditional channels”. Matt Priest, FDRA’s (Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America) President, reinforces that idea: “the American market began to look for alternatives to China. They want new products, new qualities of new products. When we analyze the imports from Portugal, we concluded that the costs are greatly higher, but the vast majority of the products are very good”.
At a conference organized by APICCAPS and ANIVEC, Leslie Gallin, UBM Fashion’s President and responsible for the organization of major fashion events in the USA, such as Magic, advised the Portuguese companies to tell their stories. “We’re investing in educational spaces, to help the community. The new generations are talking about sustainability but want to buy from a familiar business or all-female companies”, said. Sandi Mines, Director of Footwear News, reinforced this idea. “If it’s a small brand, it has to make noise and create a story. Clients are attracted by that. If they don’t have a story, build one. Because that’s going to leave an impression on the clients”.

Tight schedule
Between March and September, several initiatives are planned for the American market. In June, a group of importers will visit Portugal. In July, New York will welcome the best of the Portuguese supply under a commercial and communications’ activity, which will allow the first on-site evaluation of the market. This initiative will have an exhibition of selected Portuguese products (that may include also clothing and jewelry items, besides footwear) and will be strengthened with image and media efforts and public relations and economic diplomacy activities. It will be a great moment for the Portuguese footwear and clothing sectors in the American market. In August, the Portuguese footwear sector will attend Magic, in Las Vegas, with a strong delegation. Some of these initiatives will be replicated in February and August of next year. “It will be a consistent campaign without disruptions, as we believe that, under the medium term and with a concerted strategy, we can double our sales to the USA”, stated Luís Onofre.