It’s an especially extrovert and dynamic cluster that is conquering a truly international dimension. Since 2010, the footwear cluster has increased 49% in external markets. However, other equally relevant areas have also showed some growth.
The footwear sector has substantially contributed to the cluster’s international dimension. Within five years, the sales went from a little over 1.200 to approximately 1.923 million euros. Moreover, over 30 new markets were included on the already particularly complex exports’ geography. At the moment, the sector exports to 152 countries worldwide. However, it is the leather and saddlery industry that has revealed to be the most dynamic. Since 2010, the exports practically trebled and it has ascended to over 150 million euros last year. The components sector, probably absorbed by the increasing sales of the Portuguese footwear companies, is worth around 40 million euros, with a light decrease on external sales of approximately 0.9% the previous years.
At the employment level, positive signs have also been registered. Since 2010, were created 9.238 new jobs. Within the sector, the number of job creations increased from 34.602 to 42.249 by the end of 2014, number that has increased to 43.840 in 2015, according to APICCAPS calculations based on the numbers from the Ministry of Labor.
With a strong geographic clustering, the footwear manufacturing is mainly distributed by two hubs, in one hand, in the municipalities of Felgueiras and Guimarães and, on the other hand, in Santa Maria da Feira, Oliveira de Azeméis and São João da Madeira. Altogether, these five municipalities represent over three quarters of the sector’s employment. Further south, in Benedita’s area, there is another hub, however, with less quantitative expression.
Average companies’ dimension
The average dimension of the Portuguese footwear companies is of 26 employees, which is above average of the European footwear industry and the national manufacturing industry. As an industry with predominantly small and medium-sized enterprises, the footwear sector isn’t, therefore, an industry in which smaller units prevail.
Over the last decades, the cluster has operated a radical change on the qualification profile of its human resources: the qualified employees have doubled its weight and the medium and superior staff has increased from 3% to 9%. Without this modification, the valorization of the national production strategy would not have had a successful outcome. In this context, the industry significantly resorted to instruments of industrial property protection.
The components’ industry has a similar geographic distribution as the footwear sector, although it is extended to other municipalities. In its turn, the leather and saddlery industry is more dispersed, with centers in Ponte de Lima, Santa Maria da Feira, Braga and Castelo de Paiva. The average dimension of the companies from this industry is clearly lower than the companies from the footwear sector.
Over 200 companies were created
Over 200 new companies were created in the past five years, especially in the footwear industry, within which were developed 185 new projects. One of the particularities is directly associated to a new regional dynamic. The footwear cluster has contributed to a better regional balance by creating dozens of industrial units in the country's interior, such as in Castelo de Paiva, Celorico de Basto, Paredes de Coura, Pinhel or Seia.