Portugal’s shoemakers are having an uphill struggle to survive the pandemic. With the demise of social occasions, the demand for ‘fancy shoes’ has slumped. Thus the conscious decision to ‘switch to comfy’ and even diversify into masks and ‘other products’.
Reuters news agency has carried a worrying report, suggesting that even with all the changes, companies may end up folding – particularly those in the luxury sector.
Brands like Onofre (the company run by internationally acclaimed designer Luís Onofre) “mainly rely on fairs abroad to sell products to clients”.
Onofre shoes have been the choice of celebrities like Naomi Watts and Paris Hilton.
But since Covid-19, most shoe fairs have been cancelled – and with “less clientele than usual, 70% of factories opted to stop production between March and May”, explains Reuters.
Said Luís Onofre himself: “It will be extremely difficult for the fashion industry because during the summer shopkeepers practically didn’t sell. They are overstocked. If this goes on and they accumulate more, it could be the end of many companies”.
Thus the decisions made to diversify. Says Reuters, “some companies have switched to making more comfortable footwear for use around the house or in the supermarket. A few have added masks and other safety equipment to their production lines.
“But the changes won’t make up for the losses. Between January and August this year, exports from Portugal – Europe’s third largest footwear producer after Italy and Spain – slumped around 17% from the same period in 2019”.
As all interviewed admit, these are ‘scary times’ for a sector that only a year ago appeared to have the world at its feet.