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Luís Onofre: We will need to do more

Sep 15, 2020 Portugal
Luís Onofre: We will need to do more
Onofre has been re-elected as APICCAPS’ President in what he considers to be one of the “most difficult periods for the Portuguese footwear industry”. This was the starting point of an interview for APICCAPS’ Newspaper, which we bring you here today
Luís, you were recently re-elected for a new mandate at APICCAPS. Why did you decide to run again?
Three years ago, I was elected for the first time to the Presidency of APICCAPS. At that time, the Management Board has defined a detailed and demanding work program. We finished the term with a great sense of accomplishment. However, the Portuguese footwear industry is currently going through one of the most difficult periods of its history, and for that reason, I accepted to run for a new mandate and I appreciate the trust that everyone has put on me, especially the Board that is with me. We could not leave the project at this complex time. We embark on this new term with full consciousness of what it is at stake.

You mentioned the industry is going through one of most difficult periods of its history. How is the sector reacting?
The pandemic has ruthlessly crushed the world on a global scale and has had an impact that was only known in times of war, with drastic falls of demand and serious disruptions in the supply chains. We are currently facing, and will face in the near future, a very demanding transition period full of uncertainties at all levels. On top of that, the international footwear market was already undergoing a profound transformation before the pandemic, with changes in consumption patterns, as well as the establishment of new business models that are linked to new technologies and the digital world. All these sudden changes have forced us to question what we were used to do. Now, more than ever, I believe that we need to join forces and reinvent ways to keep our industry alive and healthy.

What can the sector do, as a whole, to rebuild itself?

We can be proud of what we accomplished in the last few decades. The Portuguese footwear success is from our merit. However, we are going to have to do a lot more and better so we can say the same thing 10 or 20 years from now.
We are one of the few industries that can say we are a cluster. APICCAPS not only covers the footwear industry, but also leather goods, components, equipment and commercial companies. It is the collective work that gives us strength. The integration of qualified human resources is imperative for the cluster. We also have to be able to attract a new generation of talents for our companies.
In addition, the sector also needs to substantially reinforce its presence in international markets. The quality of our products needs to get to higher levels so we can reach the most demanding international markets, side by side with the best. We cannot settle as being second best. We need to have as good products as the best and we need to know how to intensively promote them. The investment in international promotion is still one of our main challenges. We need to assure the fulfilment of the desire to take the international lead through an unprecedented growth on the investment in marketing and external promotion, both at institutional and companies’ levels.
The third imperative is innovation. At the moment, health is the greatest, and almost exclusive, concern of all of us; consumers also. But the pandemic is not going to last forever. Some day – we hope soon – consumers will start to think about other things again. Everything suggests that sustainability, for which we have already been mobilizing the cluster, will be one of main concerns, even more than before. Therefore, we need to prepare ourselves to be global leaders in the development of sustainable solutions. We also need to intensely work on digitalization, in order to respond to the undergoing transformations in footwear retail and distribution.
I believe it is possible to achieve this goal. If we all focus more on solutions than problems, although they are real, global and difficult, we will certainly find them.

One of the biggest current limitations is the difficulty of travelling and contacting with the clients. The participation in international fairs is highly conditioned. Does that worry you?
It naturally concerns me, both as a businessman and head of this association. It is a contingency that we have at the moment. For the footwear sector, the participation in international fairs has always been paramount. It allows us to contact with clients, test new products, understand the markets’ dynamic and even deepen the knowledge related to consumption trends and to our competitors. We will need to quickly return to that dynamic. In this regard, and at the moment we’ve living, additional support for internationalization is of great importance. We have been raising the Government’s awareness for this need. Also, we will need to know how to promote our products and contact the clients through other channels. APICCAPS has been reinforcing the valorisation of our efforts.

Is 2020 lost? How will 2021 be?

Estimates suggest that this year will register a fall of approximately 22.5% on the global footwear consumption*. In Europe, the fall will be even more expressive, of approximately 27.5%. Over 5.000 million pairs of shoes will no longer be commercialized worldwide. The coming years are not going to be easy. Additional efforts will be demanded from all of us and companies will have to find innovative solutions. But this is not a time to give up. Now, more than ever, is time to look ahead with our heads up, with full trust on our abilities and break new grounds. We are a sector of resilient people, who have always faced the challenges and struggles. This is just another one and we will bounce back to the top, as we have always done.

* Read about the World Footwear estimates on consumption in 2020 by clicking HERE

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