2018 closed with overall sales of 7.95 billion euros (+0.8 over the previous year), outperforming the expectations of the beginning of the year (-0.3%). The most important segment, both in terms of overall sales and exports, has always been wool, which accounts for 42.7% of total sales for the sector. This is followed by cotton at 18.5%, knits at 17.5%, silk at 17.3%, and then linen which accounts for 3.9%.
According to ISTAT manufacturing data for the first quarter of 2019 (January to March), Italian textiles fell by -3.5%. A similar negative performance was also recorded in exports (-2.3%) and imports (-2.4%). However, the trend was not homogeneous in terms of both outlet markets and product segments.
In comparison, for instance, exports to the US grew considerably by 15.5%, thanks to most of the fabrics included in the analysis, but China also performed well (+3.2%) especially with regard to wool products. Despite the fact that Germany experienced a marked reduction of -18.0%, it still remains Italy’s most important export market, together with China and Hong Kong.
The same contradictory trends were recorded in the rest of Europe, with France limiting the fall to -0.5%, while Romania fell by -7.9%. Conversely, direct sales to Spain increased (+11.1%), along with Portugal (+18.5%) and the United Kingdom (+13.7%). With regard to non-EU areas, Japan recorded an increase of +5.6%, Vietnam (albeit for more limited quantities) of +28.5%, while Hong Kong decreased by -9.2% and Tunisia and Turkey both recorded decreases of around -15.0%.
As for imports, China and Turkey, the first and second largest suppliers, recorded +2.8% and -12.2% respectively. Chinese textile exports to Italy accounted for 27.2%, and Turkey 18.8%. In third place, even if far behind, was Pakistan (+12.6%).
There are also divergent trends in the various product categories. Exports of wool fabrics bucked the trend, falling by -2.4%, in line with the average for the sector. More specifically, however, carded wools increased by +4.1%, while worsted wool fabrics decreased by -4.7%. Cotton fabrics fell by -4.2% and knits by -2.6%. On the other hand, exports of pure silk fabrics grew slightly by +0.8%, while exports of linen increased by +9.5%.