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Textile and fashion industry generates half of Italy’s trade surplus

by Giulia Crivelli

Italian fashion revenues continue to outperform Italy’s broader economy, and in the last part of 2016 and in the first quarter of 2017 they even picked up speed.

That would already be good news in itself, but it is even more so because the textile and fashion industry is Italy’s largest after machinery.

“If we consider the fashion system in the widest sense, including products such as eyewear, jewelry and cosmetics, in 2016 the turnover was close to €84 billion,” said Camera della Moda President Carlo Capasa at the Sole 24 Ore Luxury Summit. “Exports amounted to $62 billion, creating a surplus of $25 billion, half of Italy’s total, which in 2016 recorded an absolute record. The fashion system, I will never stop repeating, promotes a positive image of Italy in the world and is an extraordinary economic engine.” 

The January-February look positive, Capasa said.

“The fall in the sales in United States has gone from -4.5% in 2016 to -0.2%, while China has rebounded from an -0.2% to a + 4.2%,” he said. “Japan and Hong Kong are also good, with exports growing at 5.8% and 8.5%, respectively. Exports from Italy to Russia are up 19.5%.”

Exports are what have been driving economic growth in Italy overall in recent years, and not just fashion, given the drop in domestic consumption.

“The world crisis triggered in 2008 by Lehman Brothers collapse has put a strain on the fashion system, but today we look forward to the future with cautious optimism,” said Claudio Marenzi, trade group Sistema Moda Italia president. “First, because with Carlo Capasa and the Minister of Economic Development Carlo Calenda, we have built short, medium and long term team projects. Second, because Made in Italy continues to be appreciated in the growing countries, such as China and Korea in Asia. However, we can not hide two problems: the slowdown in exports to the United States and the growth of tourist flows from China to Russia, to the detriment of Italy and France.”

Companies need to increase their presence on international markets and need to find capital to make it happen especially for medium-sized businesses, said Maurizio Castello of KPMG .

Boston Consulting Group chief Davide Consiglio focused on consumer segmentation, a strategic theme for luxury operators. This exercise is more statistical than intuitive, and is likely to become sterile unless a strategy is found that maximizes the power of data.

According to Davide Consiglio, the fashion and luxury industry must exploit the new opportunities for hyperpersonalization offered by this super-charged segmentation.

“Growth in luxury will continue, but if between 2009 and 2013 it was 8.3% and between 2013 and 2016 3.8%, from 2023 we expect a + 2-3%. To keep up this pace, customization is strategic: already 22% of luxury consumers consider this important when they make purchases, a percentage that is expected to increase in every country, and in particular among the Millennials, born after the 1980s.”