In this edition of the Diary of a refinement, we speak with Décio Pereira, from Vapesol

The pandemic literally changed the shoe sector. How has your company adapted to this critical period?
Answering in a very direct way: in a first phase (the first month) I think that like everyone else it was fear and slowing down. However, our next reaction was to invest and diversify our range of products. The years of the pandemic were the company’s biggest investment. Initially, there was an investment in a new EVA unit, which allows us to say that today we are the largest Portuguese EVA company.

Furthermore, as far as EVA/TPU bonding is concerned, we are highly equipped. We acquired several equipment typical of prefabricated soles, but to enrich the work of injected. And we made an investment in TPU/PU work.

Do you think the worst is over?
In our case, except for the months following the beginning of the pandemic, which saw an abrupt drop due to order cancellations, in the remaining months we always recorded growth. In fact, in 2021 compared to 2020 we grew 30%

Will 2022 be a year of affirmation for Portuguese footwear abroad?
Yes, 2022 will be the continuation of an affirmation of Portuguese footwear abroad, a situation that has been happening for more than a decade. We can all benefit if we take advantage of our proximity to large markets and large distributors. The fast response and quality are factors of great success, but if the whole cluster manages to deal with this reality.

What are the main difficulties you feel at this time?
At this point I would say it’s the lack of manpower.

After this “storm”, what was left? Do you foresee changes in the consumption profile or even in the subcontracting strategy of major international brands that favor, for example, a closer relationship?
The footwear sector in Portugal is almost entirely “subcontracted” to European brands…. where yes, clearly the proximity factor will be predominant if combined with quality and good service and quick response…

Is sustainability here to stay or is it, in your opinion, a passing fad?
Sustainability is here to stay and will, in a few years, be the helm in the footwear sector, as well as in all sectors. It is increasingly a topic that is on the agenda of all brands.

What does the Portuguese footwear industry have to offer in foreign markets?
Quick response to orders, proximity to the main markets, very fast prototype development and the best quality in the world.