Over the next 3/5 years the work and skills of leather/footwear/leather goods industry operators is destined to changed, also driven by the situation generated by the pandemic and its impact on roles. These are the findings of a study by the Fashion & Luxury Division of Star Matrix Gi Group, in collaboration with the trade associations Confindustria Moda, Assocalzaturifici, Assopellettieri and Unic and with the involvement of 15 companies. This change has been a long time coming, as highlighted by Tommaso Cancellara, Ceo of Assocalzaturifici: “in marketing we have shifted from the 4 Ps (product, price, place, promotion), to the 4 Cs (consumer, cost, convenience, communication) but this has since been transcended once more: place becomes community, product becomes the consumer, price becomes the consideration companies have of the product, promotion becomes the conversation we are having in the community. Today’s drivers of growth only came into existence a short time ago: the digitalisation of processes and distribution, along with sustainability. All require new skills as well as a cultural knowledge of Asian markets as well as of the requirements voiced by new generations, for example generation Z and its desire to co-create the product and therefore be a part of the creative process. All these new requirements must be translated into new fashion professions”. As reiterated by Danny D’Alessandro, director of Assopellettieri, who identifies the 4 S’s (sustainability, synergy, system and school) as the 4 drivers of the future, with particular emphasis on the crucial topic of technical training for the fashion industry, which must absolutely maintain its know-how. Fulvia Bacchi, director of Unic, representing a labour-intensive industry in which know-how still remains a crucial factor, also reiterated this concept.

34 roles in growth for the footwear industry

The study focuses on the footwear, leather goods and tanning industries, raising different considerations on the evolution of company roles, despite overlapping similarities in all three sectors: increasingly tight times-to-market, important partnerships with suppliers, growing attention to the quality of raw materials, production chain traceability and environmental impact. Both the footwear and leather goods sectors were hit hard by Covid, which caused the cancellation of orders, lower sales, challenges to supply and an e-commerce boom. These problems have stimulated companies to rethink themselves in terms of global economy and consumptions, both characterised by the issue of sustainability. Therefore the fashion industry will need to focus on innovation, attention to diversity and inclusion.

In this evolving scenario, roles have been divided into three categories: stable, in decline and in growth. 99 roles were mapped for the footwear sector, resulting in the identification of 5 declining roles, 7 stable ones and 34 on the rise. Functions on the rise include industrial management, research and creation, engineering and planning.

In general 4 key results emerged in the footwear, leather goods and tanning industries: 1) people and skills remain the key to company success, in virtue of the expertise and passion they put into their work; 2) there is a strong skills shortage of motivated and qualified people and therefore the attractiveness of these sectors to young people needs to be boosted; 3) the importance of tailored training paths in the field, not only technical ones but also those built around know-how; 4) technology as an enabling factor; despite having different impacts on each sector, it enables optimisation and improvements in all areas of work as well as the fine-tuning of processes and products. The study also highlighted how there will be an increasing focus on the multi-functionality of roles, which will tend to evolve in the functions of research, innovation, engineering and planning.