Italy is considered one of the leading countries in the world market of leather, footwear and leather goods, and has a major trade role.
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There are two major districts in Italy for the leatherworking industry. The district of Santa Croce sull'Arno in Tuscany represents one of the leading areas in Italy and internationally. Tanning began here in the mid-19th century, and today 35% of Italian leather production and 98% of leather soles are produced here, for an overall turnover of almost €2 billion. The district contains around 900 companies accounting for 10,000 jobs, with an average size of around 12 employees per business.
The other historical district is that of Vigevano, in Lombardy, which has been subject to severe pressure over recent decades: on one hand from the market (with a shift in consumer interest towards sports footwear), and on the other due to the price war waged by lower quality goods, produced both in areas of Italy in which the sector has recently developed, and in other countries (especially in Eastern Europe). Vigevano responded by concentrating on shoe production for the top end of the market, but above all by investing in the sector of machinery through ever greater specialisation, leading it to convert the majority of its manufacturing industries. And the results were not long coming: in the period October 2004 - September 2005 (the last data available) growth in turnover was 17.1%, well over the national average in the sector.
In the first 3 months of 2006 turnover in the leather sector increased by 17%. Moreover, turnover and orders up to May 2006 witnessed a surge of 16.2% and 11.7% respectively on the previous year.
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