The centre of Italy reaches China

Interview with Gian Mario Spacca, president of the Marche Region, that boasts a wide experience in successfully leading the companies from this area in the centre of Italy towards strategic markets, such as Russia, China, India, Brasil and Arab States

spaccaPresident Spacca, we know that some specific projects in the textile-clothing industry have been finalized. Can you tell us something about the promotional activities in China?

The fashion industry, including clothing, footwear, leather goods, accessories is growing strongly in China. This is the result of structural changes that are quickly remodelling the Chinese market. Consumers’ tastes are changing, a growing availability of resources resulting from a growing middle class in urban areas as well as the stage of maturity reached by Chinese traders resulted in exponentially increasing export opportunities of our firms. Marche’s SMEs are aware of the importance of the Chinese market; the growing attention paid to trade promoting initiatives in Asia prove of this trend. There is a growing number of platforms to show our products and of commercial penetration projects as well. A growing number of local enterprises successfully participate in these projects. This is reflected in trade shows like Chic in Beijing or Micam in Shanghai. Equally successful is our support to internationalisation of companies given by “Punti di Assistenza Tecnica – PAT” (Technical Support Desks) organised by our Region in China. It is not only a promo-merchandising initiative on the market but also management of incoming buyers who visit our region to collect hands-on experience of the excellence of Marche’s products.

Are there positive signs of textile/fashion export? Are you happy with the result? Have you developed a fruitful cooperation in China?

The Marche’s export trend returned to pre-crisis levels together with a higher export percentage from our region compared to national levels are a spur to carry on with our strategy in support of business internationalisation. In 2013, the Marche region was the leading export performer in our country. Export sales of our products rose steadily in the last four years, in a time of genuine recession, in general. This is encouraging for the local economic system that is struggling to recover pre-crisis profit levels. Performing a +12,3% as against the previous year, Marche Region is the top player in Italy. The trend of year figures shows export is recovering steadily: from 2009 to 2013 the performance raised by +45%. In detail, the local footwear and leather goods segment continues to be the top performing export player in 2013, featuring 18% of the total figure, with +5% increase. The textile-clothing industry marked a +7.8% increase. As regards China, in 2013 the footwear/leather goods segment and textile/clothing segment export figure raised by +15%. Since Marche region had already “bet” on the growth of the Chinese market some time ago, it initiated institutional and economic relations the rebound effect of which on the local economy did not miss out. Establishing a relationship with Chinese government authorities, as well as with intermediate international trade organisations (China Councils for the Promotion of International Trade – CCPIT, Local Industry and Trade Federations) is essential to build a system and develop business opportunities for our firms. In particular, in inner China Provinces, where economy is rapidly growing, a partnership with local agencies is a wide ranging strategic move. In those areas our Region promotes cooperation platforms gathering heterogeneous skills and resources, while involving intermediate representative bodies, universities and companies. When facing the complex Chinese reality it is essential to be able to hold oneself out as a system of rationalised internationalisation strategies and organisation efforts.

What basic difficulties do companies in this industry report in their approach to the Chinese and Asian market (cultural, organisation, production difficulties…)?

The major issues of the fashion industry mainly concern some peculiar features of the Chinese system. To our companies it is most difficult to identify reliable, skilled partners in each segment. Many Chinese economic operators are willing to invest in this industry, however they lack the necessary know-how and notions to effectively cooperate with our brands and develop a market. It is a cultural issue, closely connected to the quick growth of an economic system not ripe enough. At the same time, our small and medium enterprises find it difficult to invest significant resources and build trade structures so as to track the relationship with potential Chinese partners. Hence, our Region aims at bridging the cultural and organisational gaps with the help of Technical Support Desks to bring Marche’s PME closer to Chinese operators and – in the near future – through trade platforms to support SMEs in this industry.

Could you disclose some further steps to bring Marche and Asia closer in the textile-fashion industry?

In the near future, our Technical Support Desks will continue to offer local enterprises technical support instruments to implement their presence on the market: searching and checking trade partners, offering support to register and protect their brands, organising B2B and incoming buyers meetings on the Marche’s territory, in cooperation with government agencies and Chinese intermediate agencies. Our Region will continue supporting the participation of local companies in major trade shows on the Far East market. Furthermore, we are considering the feasibility of a project involving Asian investors to build distribution systems of Marche’s top products in important Chinese shopping malls. In fact, in our opinion, it is very important to build trade networks so as to enable our businesses to develop their own internationalisation strategy. On a global market, this is the major role institutions should play. A role that is growing mainly through strategic local partnerships with some Chinese organisations, strengthened in the last few years: we work alongside with enterprises to build inclusive platforms that can promote and merchandise our products, while streamlining resources in a system of knowledge and skills.