CARCAR’S shoe industry is facing grave threats from competition by cheap imports from China and the declining number of local cobblers.

If not given support, the local shoe industry will eventually die, said Gerry Sandoy, president of Carcar United Footwear and Manufacturing Association Inc. (Cufmai).

“We are in our toughest times. We haven’t recovered since the entry of more and more cheap footwear from China,” said Sandoy, “Plus, we are facing a greater threat than competition. We are slowly losing our shoemakers.”

Those who weren’t able to keep up with competition closed shops and shifted to other businesses, leaving skilled workers displaced.

“From a peak of 300 workers, there are only about 50 left. In my case, I had 30 workers but now I only maintain 12,” said Sandoy, who owns Jebiley Shoes Manufacturer.

Cufmai hasn’t significantly improved its membership since its establishment in 2003.

It had 16 members at the start and two companies joined the following years but it eventually dropped back to 16.

Sandoy blamed shoe imports that have flooded the local market for the industry’s problems. He said even local companies that used to sell local footwear are now selling largely China-made shoes.

“The industry has lost out to China. It’s no longer our shoe brand that is patronized anymore and this is very discouraging,” he said. He described China footwear as affordable but of low-quality.

Caravans

Aside from the shoe display center of Cufmai members across the Acacia Grill and Restaurant in Carcar City, struggling shoe players merely rely on caravans in other municipalities, especially during fiestas or trade fairs. Others also depend on walk-in customers.

But Sandoy stressed these marketing efforts “are not enough” to ensure survival of the shoe industry.

“We need more than that. We need something that is sustainable,” he said.

Sandoy also told Sun.Star Cebu they dreaded the Asean integration that will come to play in 2015 as they haven’t discussed and planned yet the market positioning of their shoe products. He emphasized that they need intervention from government agencies and the local government unit in terms of market access, working capital and product design, innovation and marketing.

Sandoy said the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) 7 already reached out to them after Cufmai’s inception. One of the agency’s latest project is an equipment worth P1.7 million that will benefit not only members of the organization but also non-members. The equipment, though, is still out for bidding.

The shoemakers are also seeking support from Cebuano legislators, particularly in importation. Sandoy said they need resolutions that would help rebuild and boost the local shoe industry.

“We don’t want the industry to die because it is already part of the heritage of Carcar. What we want is more boosters to stay competitive in the market and more Filipino buyers to buy local products,” Sandoy said.

Social media tools

Industry players have also tapped social media tools but admitted not everyone has fully maximized and has taken advantaged of social marketing yet.

The shoe capital in Cebu had its glory days back in 80’s. The shoe industry was one of the city’s big income and employment generator. It was also every family’s means of supporting the education of their children.

Unlike the China-made shoes which are mostly machine made, Carcar footwear are handmade, durable, affordable and are guaranteed of high quality, Sandoy said. Leather shoes in mall, which costs a thousand pesos or more is priced for as low as P500 in Carcar. Sandals and slippers, on the other hand, cost P70 and above.

Carcar’s shoe industry is also included in the Tourism Department’s tour packages in southern Cebu.