Footwear, the main export industry in the province of Alicante, had already been showing signs of slowing down before the arrival of the coronavirus, but the health crisis accelerated this process until it put the sector on the ropes. Hence, the Valencian Courts decided to create a special commission to review the business model and improve competitiveness, which, after almost a year and a half of work, has issued its opinion. issues like the promotion of training, innovation or foreign sales are some of the pillars on which the document is based, which also includes measures to combat the shadow economy, such as the setting up of a specific labor inspection unit. All proposals, in any case, must be included in a plan of the Generalitat to support this industry, which also includes aid for companies.
The commission, made up of deputies from all the regional groups, has been attended by business, union and political representatives, as well as technicians. It was after listening to all of them that an opinion was drawn up that was approved this Monday unanimouslyso that the Government of the Botànic makes it its own and promotes the different measures that are proposed.
The report analyzes the strong impact that the pandemic has had on footwear, with a 40% drop in sales, and the complicated context generated by the war in Ukraine, which has unbalanced the markets and led to a severe energy crisis. All this leads to the conclusion that, if before the health crisis the challenges for the sector were already extraordinary, today adaptation to the new global economic framework is essential through a reinvention based on digitization, changes in consumption habits and sustainable industry.
With this background, the commission, in the section on business models, raises the need to urgently develop a strategic plan for the sector with the support of the Generalitat and differentiated from textiles, the increase in border controls to prevent the entry of products under conditions of unfair competition and the promotion of real training support plans to cover the generational change.
The issue of training, however, is analyzed in greater depth in the chapter on talent, with issues such as the increase and diversification of the offer offered by the Generalitat, a adaptation of courses to the needs of companies and continuous improvement of working conditions.
The document also devotes a large section to innovation, on the basis that 50% of the companies do not invest more than 15,000 euros in this plot mainly due to the fragmentation of the sector, with 90% of SMEs and micro-SMEs with little investment capacity. Thus, the promotion of private investment in innovation and digitization is proposed in a transversal way in all processes, the increase of programs and lines of support that foster cooperation with public universities and the streamlining of procedures for the start-up of the National Footwear Reference Center project in Elche.
In the field of digitization and internationalisation, the committee’s opinion proposes deepen the development of international free trade agreements and promote the use of the Spain brand. Reference is also made to one of the issues raised by several appearing parties, such as the creation of a great footwear fair at IFA to consolidate the international image of the sector.
In terms of sustainability, it is highlighted that in order for the economy to be socially just, the submerged economy must be eradicated, proposing in this sense the creation of a specialized labor inspection unit in the sector. Measures are also proposed to favor the circular economy and the recycling of waste and the promotion of a line of financing for the acquisition of machinery and sustainable processes.
In the public administrations section, aid is proposed for contracting and investment in R&D&I and for a Valencian delegation to be present in Brussels when trade agreements are being negotiated for defend the sectoral strategic interests of the Community.