Footwear Industry

The effects of globalization on Italian industrial districts: Evidence from the footwear sector

European Planning Studies, 14(4): 485-502

This paper is in collaboration with Alessia Amighini.

It examines the impact of globalisation of production on the Italian footwear sector and investigates the structural changes taking place in some shoe districts as they join international production networks.
The following questions are discussed: Are Italian footwear districts specialising in particular phases of the production cycle? Is there a trend towards the reduction of activities carried out within districts? Or are different patterns emerging according to the districts’ main market segment and to the value chains (e.g. luxury fashion market or mass market) they belong to?
The study explores these issues using data on outward processing trade (OPT) collected by Associazione Nazionale Calzaturieri Italiani (ANCI) to analyse the fragmentation of production in the footwear sector at “provincia” level. The available disaggregation of data allows us to investigate the different outsourcing strategies and emerging trends within the district. Two case studies are presented; one on Riviera del Brenta in Veneto and the other on Barletta in Puglia.
In the footwear districts investigated, we find evidence of different international delocalisation strategies. We argue that these different patterns of specialisation are closely related to the clusters’ market position and suggest that these patterns influence the clusters’ potential for future competitiveness.

Distretti industriali e globalizzazione: upgrading e downgrading nella Riviera del Brenta

Economia e Politica Industriale

This paper is concerned with the impact of globalisation on local competitiveness in Brenta, one of the most important Italian footwear districts. The aim is to integrate the typical industrial district approach with the global value chain approach. To understand the changes confronting Brenta, the paper distinguishes between enterprises operating in a) the top brand chain, dominated by the owners of global brands in the luxury market, and b) the high quality chain in which German buying groups aggregate many independent footwear stores. The questions addressed are: Is globalisation pushing Brenta towards new value chains? What types of governance characterise the relationships between local and outside actors? Do the chains’ leaders come from inside or outside the districts? Does the integration of industrial clusters in global value chains enhance or weaken local upgrading strategies? One of the main findings is the increasing importance of the top brand value chain in the district. To be part of the chain, Brenta’s shoe producers accept a functional downgrading, abandoning design and marketing and focusing on production. Nonetheless, the remarkable recent growth rates in the luxury industry, which is built around global top brands, have allowed local producers in this chain to perform better that those in other chains.


Recovery of a Mexican Cluster: Devaluation Bonanza or Collective Efficiency?

World Development, 27(9): 1571-1585

Mexico, as many other developing countries in Latin America and elsewhere, has been moving in the 1980s toward a liberalized trade regime after a long period of import substitution. This paper analyzes the impact of trade liberalization on the cooperative behavior of shoe ®rms located in a cluster in Guadalajara. The empirical evidence shows that cooperation has increased. It also suggests that cooperation positively influences firms’ performance and together with a favorable market environment contributes to the cluster’s recovery. The study is based on ®eldwork carried out in Guadalajara in 1996. Qualitative information was collected through in-depth interviews and quantified responses came from a questionnaire survey covering a sample of 63 shoe manufacturing enterprises.

Download the pdf, JA World Development 1999-09

Collective effects in Italian and Mexican footwear industrial clusters

Small Business Economics, 10(3):243-262

The focus of this article is on the analysis of the collective economic effects deriving from the intense set of backward, forward, labor, horizontal and institutional linkages existing within clusters of enterprises. Among the economic effects two main categories are distinguished: external economies, which are the spontaneous by-product of economic activities undertaken within the clusters and cooperation effects, which are the results of explicit and deliberate cooperative behaviors of the economic actors. In the empirical investigation, these economic effects have been analyzed in four clusters of footwear firms in Italy and Mexico. The first result of the empirical investigation is the confirmation of the importance of collective efficiency both in the ‘proper’ Italian districts and in the Mexican clusters. Nevertheless, there are considerable differences concerning the intensity and quality of the collective effects between the realities studied. Those differences are explained through the impact of the disparities in the outside environment on the core characteristics of the different clusters. Finally, some considerations about the need for moving from a static to a dynamic approach to explain differences between stages of development and growth trajectory patterns of the districts are put forward.


External economies and cooperation in industrial districts: a comparison of Italy and Mexico

External economies and cooperation in industrial districts: a comparison of Italy and Mexico

This book was published by McMillan and also translated in Persian.

The success of industrial districts in Europe has attracted the interest of development economists in their search for new industrial development models. This study explores the extent to which the industrial district ‘model’ explains the realities of four footwear clusters in Italy, the ‘land’ of districts, and in Mexico, a less developed country. Empirical investigation confirms that there are gains from clustering; however, differences have also been identified in the intensity and quality of collective effects between the realities studied and the ‘model’. Those differences are attributed to disparities in the external environments, to heterogeneity of economic actors, and to the adoption of a dynamic approach to interpret cluster growth trajectories.

Is there an industrial district “model”? Footwear districts in Italy and Mexico

World Development, 23 (1) 29-41

In this paper we present the results of empirical research carried out in two footwear clusters located in Italy, the “land of industrial districts,” and two clusters of footwear enterprises in Mexico. The aim of the study is to present a comparison between the ideal-typical industrial district, as it is defined in the literature, and the case studies in Mexico and Italy. Material from a survey of clusters of firms in Italy and Mexico reveals how clusters in both countries differ in some aspects from the “textbook” model. Similarities and differences are- investigated in some detail, and attention is given to the intensity and quality of backward and forward linkages, the existence of an “industrial atmosphere” and the nature and extent of institutional support.