posted at 22:50
Author Name: Olivier Devos
Mandarin compulsory as Portuguese town seeks foothold in China
The aim is to give their youth the competitive tool to help sell its footwear to China. "Chinese is the key which will open the doors to the world's biggest market," said Dilma Nantes, Sao Joao da Madeira's city councillor on education. China may be known as the factory of the world, and is indeed the biggest producer of footwear - making 10 billion pairs a year - but Portuguese shoe-makers are starting to step into the huge Asian market. Affluent Chinese with a taste for luxury are increasingly fond of handmade Portuguese footwear, which are the world's second most expensive after Italian shoes. Exports of footwear by Portuguese brands to China soared from 10,000 pairs in 2011 to 170,000 pairs in 2013, reaching sales of 5.4 million euros. If sales of footwear made in Portugal for foreign brands were included as well, 2013 revenues surpass 20 million euros - although still a fraction of the total shoe exports reaching 1.7 billion euros that year. Tavares's firm Tape began selling to China in 2013, starting with just 200 pairs, but he hopes that figure will soar five times to 1,000 in 2014. "China has the potential to become our main market one day," he said, adding that the young Mandarin speakers would later on be perfect for "Sales jobs or managerial posts at factories".

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