Italian textile industry expects recovery in 2017

The Italian textile industry was in optimistic mood on the opening day of the Milano Unica textile trade show, held at the Rho exhibition centre outside Milan on 11th-13th July. The first-quarter figures published for the occasion seem in fact to suggest that the market is on the upswing.

Italian textiles are regaining some ground - Milano Unica ph Erdna

After two years, 2015 and 2016, in which output, sales and exports all fell, the first three months of 2017 herald a trend reversal. According to the figures published by Italy's national statistical institute ISTAT, between January and March Italian textile output rose by 2% (though in April it fell again, by 2.2%).

The most significant contribution came from exports, which increased by 3.5% compared to the first quarter 2016, chiefly thanks to woollen fabrics (+3.1%) and cotton (+6.8%).

Italy is the world's fifth-largest fabric exporter, after China, India, the USA and Germany. In the first three months of 2017, Germany was, as always, the first outlet for Italian exports, with a 9.7% share of the total, though it recorded a 2.8% decrease, down to €81 million. Romania, the second export market for Italian fabrics, also declined (-5.8%), and do did France, Italy's third market (-5.0%).

There was instead healthy double-digit growth in some extra-EU countries, starting with the stunning 68% increase in exports to South Korea, which still absorbs a very small share (2%) of total Italian fabric exports.

Also very much on the up were exports to China (+22.1%) and Hong Kong (+10.8%), making their combined share the second-largest market for Italy, ahead of Romania and France. Exports to Spain also grew remarkably, by 13.8%.

However, the data for 2016 gathered and elaborated by SMI, the Italian fashion industry's confederation, shows a shortfall which is more marked than the one expected after last February's forecasts.

Last year, the revenue of Italy's textile industry reached €7.84 billion, equivalent to a 0.9% decrease over 2015. The result is explained by "the difficulties encountered both on the domestic and the international market," with domestic demand falling by 1.8% and exports falling by 1%.

Except for the wool sector, which grew 2.7% and accounted for 40.7% of total revenue, and linen (+1%), the output of all other types of textiles fell compared to the previous year.

Translated by Nicola Mira

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