British footwear operators were already facing market challenges, such as that shared with other national producers (such as those in Italy): managing the impact of sneakers on the market. Then came the uncertainties connected to Brexit. Brexit is (also) now quarantined by the pandemic. What is happening to British footwear operators? Lucy Reece Raybould (in photo), CEO of BFA (British Footwear Association), explained it in an interview.
What is happening to British footwear and the UK?
The situation is very serious. Our PM has but the country in isolation. Many plants have shut down or are working reduced hours. Now I expect they will shut down all plants to protect the employees. We are waiting to see if we can continue online activities.
Before Coronavirus, the segment was getting ready for Brexit
We had launched Brexit Readiness, a roadshow around the UK, last October. We were already supplying our associated with weekly updates.
What do you think of Brexit?
I think it can be an opportunity to look toward new markets. If the UK will be able to negotiate favourable commercial agreements, these countries in question may have a large impact our export performances. We will see.
British and Italian footwear manufacturers focus on quality, but they must manage the price factor…
The size of the two comparable industries are different, but it’s true that, for example, labor costs are important in Italy as they are in the UK. Throughout the last decades, many companies have chosen to outsource production, and as a result there is only manufacturers of high-quality goods left in the country. Our associated are adapting production to make sneakers. Producers do a part of the production process off-shore, and then assemble the products in their local plants.
Is price the problem?
It’s a challenge that is putting a lot of pressure on the market. New technology and materials are helping companies satisfy the price points set by the market. But in the end, there is a point below which they just cannot go. In other words, consumers will have to accept the fact that, to be able to guarantee quality and ethics, there is a price under which these shoes just cannot be manufactured.