December 20th, 2016

Internationally, French savoir-faire is still in demand

Exports rose significantly for leather goods (+ 10%), footwear (+7%) and tannery products (+4%)

The French leather sector’s exports remained healthy over the first nine months of the year. Exports of leather goods rose by 10% in value terms, footwear by 7% and tannery products by 4%.

Handbags, the export star

France’s main clients for leather goods are Hong Kong (574.2 million euros, or +17%), the United States (563.7 million euros, or +6%), Singapore (524.7 million euros, or +80%), Italy (411.2 million euros, or +11%) and Japan (212.8 million euros, or -46%).

Of the 15.9 million handbags sold by France (up by 1%), 4 million were made of leather (an increase of 8%). In value terms this represents some 2.38 billion euros (+7%) and 1.54 billion euros) respectively. The average export price for leather handbags is 387.95 euros.

Leather footwear (not including slippers) is the market leader

France’s main clients for shoes and footwear are Italy (330.1 million euros, or +15%), Germany (310.6 million euros, or +10%), and the United Kingdom (218.2 million euros, or +12%).

Of the 82.1 million pairs of shoes sold by France, 20 million were made of leather. Export of shoes rose by 2% in value terms, totalling some 1.13 billion euros. The average export price rose by 7% and is calculated at 56.70 euros.

French tanneries – producing leather of the highest quality

The production of finished bovine leathers and finished ovine hides has enjoyed growth of 2.3% and 10.9% respectively, driven by the rise in overseas demand. Exports of these leathers have shot up by 13% and 8% respectively.


Imports are up (5% for footwear, 4% for leather goods) with a trend for higher-end products.

Given the cost of labour and the unrivalled expertise of French craftsmen, manufacturers have positioned themselves on the premium and luxury markets. At the same time, French consumers have tended to favour more accessible products. To respond to this demand, France has seen a rise in its imports, with a recent increase in the quality of the products imported.

China, the leading supplier of finished goods to France, is losing ground...

In value terms, China represents 36% of French imports of leather goods, 27% of shoes and footwear and 22% of leather gloves. These figures represent a reduction of 4%, 8% and 1% respectively. The trend is the same for import volumes.

Imports of Chinese handbags, totalling some 40.2 million articles for a value of 265 million euros, fell by 2% in volume and 5% in value. France imported 900 000 fewer Chinese handbags. But only 5% of the handbags imported from China are made from leather.

Over the first three quarters of 2016, France imported 213.5 million pairs of shoes from China, against 231 million pairs for the same period last year, representing a drop of 8%.

Imports of gloves from China also shrank by 5%, or some 3.8 million pairs.

In recent years, China has suffered for its image as the “workshop of the world”, with its output often associated with low quality products. Furthermore, Chinese production has seen the cost of labour increase year on year to such an extent that within the next five years, the unit labour cost is expected to reach that of the countries in the east of the Eurozone. This situation has benefited other emerging economies in South East Asia, such as Vietnam where labour is cheaper and better qualified. favour of Vietnam, particularly in footwear.

Two thirds of the shoes imported into France come from either China or Vietnam. Imports of shoes and footwear from Vietnam have grown substantially in recent years. Imports represented some 483.6 million euros for the whole of 2013, 618.2 million euros in 2014 and 874.3 million euros in 2015, a rise of some 11%.

In volume terms, footwear imports from Vietnam grew by 12%, reaching 44.9 million pairs, but conversely the average price shrank by 1.5%. Having said this, they are still more expensive than Chinese shoes due to the fact that the quality is higher.

Globally, taking into account all articles and all materials, a pair of Chinese-made shoes is imported at a price of 6.34 euros compared to 16.93 euros for a pair of shoes made in Vietnam. A pair of shoes with leather uppers from Vietnam (not including slippers) costs 25.10 euros compared to 20.78 euros for a pair made in China. In one year, the price of shoes with leather uppers from Vietnam has increased by 9%, while those from China have fallen by 6%.

The free-trade agreement with the European Union, negotiated in 2014 and signed at the end of 2015, has attracted more foreign investors into Vietnam. Vietnamese factories have been able to access the new technologies of these order givers and to integrate new production methods. Today, Vietnam is better known for being a sub-contractor than a supplier, manufacturing quality products and meeting the requirements of European clients. 

Leather articles from Italy are popular with French buyers!

Imports of shoes and other footwear as well as leather goods coming from Italy have risen by 10%. The trend is for purchases of more expensive items when it comes to Italian products.

The average price of Italian shoes, taking into account all items and all materials imported, is 41.54 euros, or an increase of 8%. Leather shoes have an average transaction value of 60.65 euros, a rise of 6% compared with last year.  In volume terms, imports of Italian shoes have risen by 1%, which represents some 23.2 million pairs.

As for handbags, France imported 3.1 million articles from Italy with an average transaction value of 188.49 euros, an increase of 9% against last year. Of these 3.1 million handbags imported from Italy, 2 million are in leather with an average price of 241.40 euros.


Frank BOEHLY, President of the CONSEIL NATIONAL DU CUIR: « On the French market we are seeing increased demand from consumers for better quality products and a clear trend for higher-end imported products. As for the production of French-made leather articles, our country has long been appreciated for its expertise on the worldwide luxury market and continues to hold 4th place for exports with a turnover of 9.3 billion euros for 2015, which will probably be exceeded in 2016. »


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Le Conseil National du Cuir

The confederation brings together 21 federations and professional unions of the French leather industry, ranging from the farming of livestock through to the finished products.

The French leather industry

  • 12 800 businesses
  • 25 billion euro turnover, 
  • 133,000 people employed in the leather, tanning, footwear, leathergoods and glovemaking and leather goods retail industries.
  • One of the world leaders for finished calf leather and exotic leather
  • 3rd biggest exporter in the world of leathers and raw hides
  • 13th largest exporter of finished leathers
  • World No.3 for exports of leathergoods