Italian shoemakers are struggling because of a decline in the domestic market and the difficulties faced by small firms in reaching lucrative export markets, an industry report showed on Wednesday.
"The Italian market is not enough any more," Cleto Sagripanti, president of footwear association Assocalzaturifici, said as he presented the report.
But the quantity of shoes exported has diminished by 6.2 percent after it had gone up by 15.2 percent in 2010 and by 3.4 percent in 2011.
Exports are crucial as sales in the home-market have kept diminishing since the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008.
In 2012, they went down by 4.5 percent.
"SMEs (small and medium enterprises) cannot make it on their own, they need help," he said, calling on lawmakers and the government to provide greater export assistance.
Unlike big name fashion houses, smaller companies have difficulty re-orienting their sales network towards more high-growth markets outside Italy.
Shoe exports are pivoting towards the East.
They went up by 14.7 percent in Russia, 17.1 percent in Japan, 20.4 percent in Hong Kong, 25 percent in South Korea and 40.7 percent in China.
Footwear industry leaders have also urged lawmakers to put pressure on Brussels to make "made in" labelling mandatory for imported goods.
"A lot of Asian enterprises imitate French and Italian brands and cheat consumers making them pay 10 times the value of their footwear products," said Sagripanti, who runs a family shoemaking business "Manas" in central Italy.
The report also warned that all cases of health-problems derived from harmful materials concerned Asian imported shoes, while the EU's quality control programme efficiently monitors European products.