French leather industry sees exports rise by 7% in 2017

April 10th, 2018
The French leather industry experienced healthy growth in exports (+7%) in 2017, with sales continuing to grow since 2009, rising from 5 billion to 10.6 billion euros.


A balance of trade that is approaching equilibrium (-13%)

Despite France experiencing its worst balance of trade since 2011, the French leather industry reduced its own deficit by 13%. Although it is still showing a loss, the balance of trade fell to 955 million euros in 2017 compared with 1.1 billion euros in 2016, and 1.4 billion euros in 2015. The coverage ratio stood at 92%, an increase of 6 points since 2014.

A similar trend can be seen with imports and exports, as the French leather industry has enjoyed better results than all other sectors. Taking all sectors into account, French customs authorities recorded a 7% rise in imports and a 4.5% rise in exports, whereas imports by the French leather industry were valued at 11.6 billion euros and rose by just 5%, whilst exports, which represent 10.6 billion euros, grew by 7%.

Sales to the main clients, namely Italy, Hong Kong, the United States and the United Kingdom grew by 7%, 13%, 1% and 18% respectively. The footwear and leather goods sectors, which represent 30% and 61% respectively of French exports by the French leather industry, are the best performers at export. Their overseas sales grew by 7% and 9%.

Metropolitan Influence


Leather goods, one of France's most successful exports (+9%)

With exports valued at 6.5 billion euros, up by 9% on 2016, the leather goods industry is in a strong position as one of France’s leading export sectors.

Trade in this sector shows a large surplus (coverage rate of 174%, a rise of 3 points against 2016). In value terms, France exports much more than it imports, with its main clients being Hong Kong, the United States and Singapore. In these three countries, sales increased by 15%, 1% and 12% respectively. Sales of leather goods, which represent 44% of French exports, increased by 9%. Demand from Europe is developing even faster. Exports to the United Kingdom (35% of total exports) increased by 13%. Sales in Italy, the United Kingdom and Germany benefited from growth of 9%, 19% and 11% respectively.

Overseas demand for French luxury products continues to be high. Sales of luggage and handbags increased by 24% and 10% respectively. The average transaction value of exported handbags increased by 16%, rising to 477 euros for leather bags and 85 euros for bags made from other materials.


The slowdown in imports from Asia and the rise in those from Europe is proof of an increase in the quality of the items being imported by France. 

The proportion of French imports coming from Europe is showing an increase, while the proportion coming from Asia is reducing. Imports from Europe and Asia represent 49% and 46% respectively (against 45% and 50% in 2015 and 47% and 48% in 2016).

The slowdown in Asian imports into France can be largely explained by the reduction in imports from China, which shrank by 7% in 2016 and 3% in 2017. China was the largest supplier to France but has been overtaken by Italy, whose sales to France have increased by 15%.

Imports of articles from Europe (5.7 billion euros) increased by 11% while those from Asia (5.4 billion euros) increased by 1%. Imports from Vietnam (3rd largest supplier to France), India (5th) and Indonesia (7th) grew by 9%, 2% and 3% respectively, compensating for the slowdown in orders to China. The average price of a pair of shoes (not including slippers) from these countries stands at 18 euros, 17 euros and 23 euros, whereas it is 7 euros for a Chinese pair.

France imported 79.4 million hand bags, some 6.8 million fewer than in 2016. Deliveries of Asian handbags (64.6 million) fell by 8.6 million items. In contrast, deliveries of handbags coming from the European Union (11 million items) increased by 1.6 million. This change in the source of imported hand bags is accompanied by a clear increase in price. The average transaction value of a handbag has leaped by 17%.

Metropolitan Influence

Frank BOEHLY, Président du Conseil National du Cuir : « We are delighted by the strong overseas demand for handbags made by our luxury houses. This constant growth has led to the opening of new workshops in France and the creation of new jobs »


Download the External Trade of the French Leather Industry for 2017 (French version)


The Conseil National du Cuir, through its Economic Observatory, is tasked with providing information to all the players in the French leather sector. Throughout the year, output includes: a brochure and country data sheets on global trade in the leather sector, a study on France’s External Trade, annual surveys of the economic context by sector of activity (leathers and raw hides, tannery, footwear and leather goods), monthly economic context briefings on the global activity of French companies in the industrial leather sector and their external trade, data sheets on the annual activity of tanneries, footwear and leather goods as well as studies of the trade sector. 

All this data is published on the website

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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