Spanish shoemakers gear up for local market

Spanish shoemakers gear up for local market

Spanish shoemakers’ interest in the Korean market is gaining momentum.

After last year’s second-quarter Spain Fashion Exhibition hosted by ICEX, Spain’s trade and investment promotion agency, the shoemaking industry also dominated this year’s fair.

At last Thursday’s 6th Spain Fashion Exhibition held at the DDP, Seoul, 11 of 17 participating companies were shoe manufacturers while four were accessory and apparel brands and two were baby product brands. At last year’s exhibition, 13 of 18 participating companies were shoe manufacturers, the largest number out of the five exhibitions.

The fairs have been held biannually since 2013. They are exclusive to local buyers, importers and distributors who are interested in collaborating with Spanish brands.

When asked why so many Spanish shoe brands were interested in the Korean market, Maria Luisa Aparicio, manager of the Fashion Department of ICEX Spain Trade and Investment, attributed it largely to the barrier-free economic environment.

“They’re interested in Korea because they’ve sold well in Japan and China so far,” Aparicio said. “Since the Free Trade Agreement between Korea and Spain became effective from 2011, Spanish companies started thinking: Why only China and Japan? Why shouldnwe come to Korea when we don’t have to pay customs? Besides, Korean people are very sophisticated. They want nice shoes, modern shoes and leather shoes. So we’re very happy.”

Most brands at the fair were, like comfort-shoe manufacturer Pikolinos, seeking a Korean distributor, opting for a corner at a department store or looking to open their own stores.

“Pikolinos has its shoes in some stores but before opening the brand’s own store, they want to see how it works, what are the styles and sizes of Koreans and whether they can maintain both the independent store and the department store corners,” said Aparicio.

“In the shoe business, it’s less concentrated and we have more brands that are more risky to open in new markets. There are about 12 specialty store chains in Korea, such as Carolina Herrera and Loewe, which are some of the better-known ones. Very soon, there will be more because brands that come with their own distribution channel don’t come to fairs.”

Aparicio believes Spain is particularly strong in shoes because of its tradition of skills.

“It’s not easy to make a shoe,” she said. “It requires a long tradition because it has to fit and not hurt you. It has to be comfortable and pretty at the same time.

“Spain has a strong tradition in shoemaking and this is largely because we’re very strong with the raw material. We have the knowhow of making very good-quality shoes with leather. Ninety percent of our shoes are made in leather.”

Spain’s shoe and textile industry plays an important part in the country’s economy because it exports to 180 countries and 150 million customers. Among its export products, shoes had a 4.9 percent increase last year over the previous year. The export of Spanish fashion items to Korea has increased 49 percent over the past five years and its shoes are being well received in the Korean market.

“Our exports to Korea are growing every year — from 2013 to 2014, there was a 40 percent increase,” said Aparicio.

“In terms of fashion, mass merchants such as Zara and Mango are doing well and specialty stores such as Bimba y Lola are also cruising. The Inditex group, which owns nine brands, already has launched Zara, Zara Home, Massimo Dutti, Stradivarius, Bershka, and Pull&Bear in Korea. Desigual, which is very successful all over the world, will be here very soon too.”


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