Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

How 'Made in Portugal' is expanding its footprint on global stage

By Isa Soares, CNN
updated 1:36 PM EDT, Fri April 12, 2013
  • Despite economic gloom, one Portuguese industry is expanding its export market
  • Shoemaking, one of country's most traditional industries, is mapping out a new future
  • Some are discovering new ways to gain traction, such as adopting Anglo-Saxon names
  • It's a strategy proving its value, with exports in the industry growing 6% a year

Editor's note: Isa Soares is a Marketplace Europe reporter. Follow her on Twitter.

(CNN) -- To better understand Portugal's economic challenges look no further than Guimaraes; its oldest city and the cradle of my nation.

In the 1980s and 1990s, this city was an industry boom town with factories lining the valley. Today many of these are gathering dust while others rust, as the economic crisis and competition from China take their toll.

But despite the doom and gloom, there is one Portuguese industry that's making great strides.

Read more: Islam and democracy can work in EU, says Turkish Deputy PM

Shoemaking, one of the most traditional and oldest industries in the country, is mapping out a new future by exporting its way out of the crisis.

Portugal hopes to avoid second bailout

And some are discovering new ways to gain traction overseas.

Austerity outrage in Portugal

We visit a shoemaker where, on one of the factory floors, workers stitch, sew, glue and lace up the company's product. The shoes range from the practical and functional, to outright edgy.

Read more: Finnish PM: Eurozone nations must follow the rules

Helping kids understand financial crisis

Stamped on the side of each shoe is a sketch of a fly. This is the company's logo, and its brand name is Fly London. It's entirely "Made in Portugal" -- but distinctively un-Portuguese.

Others such as Nobrand, Camport, Eject, Mack James, and Softwaves have also chosen to have an Anglo-Saxon ring to them, so they can stand out in the very competitive market.

Read more: Auto industry revs up recovery on Spain

Alfredo Moreira, the executive director of the Portuguese Footwear and Manufacturers Association, tells me the decision to use Anglo-Saxon names fits perfectly with today's open and globalized economy. He told me "competition is tough," adding, "companies have to think in a very globalized way."

It's a strategy that has helped drive growth, with 97% of output now going to about 130 countries.

To better understand their export market, I visit Fly London's new warehouse. I find boxes upon boxes of Fly London shoes, ready for delivery to Croatia, Denmark, Italy, UK, U.S., Russia and Angola, among many other countries.

Read more: GE Europe chief eyes investment in Germany

But Fortunato Frederico, managing director of Fly London, tells me selling abroad requires more than just a foreign name. It requires investment in new and advanced technologies, better quality products, spending on international promotion and updated workforce skills.

During my tour of Fly London's factory, Frederico tells me they're installing new technology which will make the ordering process smoother and faster.

Portuguese shoes are now the second most expensive in the world, behind Italian shoes, according to industry group APPICAPS. Marketing drives and innovation has helped grow the industry's exports by 6% every year for the past five years.

For the Portuguese government, which has been pinning its hopes on traditional sectors such as this one, the industry offers a glimmer of hope for a country trying to get out of its debt quagmire.

And with the Portuguese economy expected to shrink by 2.3% this year, industries like this are more than just examples of innovation -- they are the glue holding a fragmented economy together.

Part of complete coverage on
Marketplace Europe
updated 11:31 AM EST, Thu January 16, 2014
Marketplace Europe visits Latvia to see how the Baltic country has made its transition to the Euro from the Lat.
updated 11:30 AM EST, Thu January 16, 2014
CNN's Nina Dos Santos visits Latvia to speak to the country's outgoing Prime Minister and the prospects for the eurozone's 18th member.
updated 11:40 AM EST, Thu January 2, 2014
Malta is the gateway to Europe and on the frontline of the immigration flows. Isa Soares reports from a detention center on the Mediterranean island.
updated 11:41 AM EST, Thu January 2, 2014
CNN's Isa Soares speaks with people on the streets of Valletta who say their country can't cope with more migrants from Africa and the Middle East.
updated 5:06 AM EST, Thu January 9, 2014
Malta cannot afford to continue supporting migrants from war-torn countries in its over-crowded detention camps, the country's foreign minister has told CNN.
updated 4:23 PM EST, Thu December 26, 2013
Slow recoveries, bailouts, and youth unemployment. Richard Quest speaks to Europe's top CEOs about the issues of 2013.
updated 4:14 PM EST, Thu December 26, 2013
CNN's Richard Quest speaks to economist Bob Parker about defining moments of 2013 and about what to expect in 2014.
updated 1:15 PM EST, Thu December 5, 2013
Estonia is setting the pace for other European nations with a thriving economy and its tech industry, according to the Baltic nation's leader.
updated 2:03 PM EST, Thu December 5, 2013
The Baltic nation of Estonia is developing its oil shale energy reserves in a bid to become energy self-sufficient.
updated 4:25 AM EST, Fri November 29, 2013
Europe must stop being nationalistic if it wants to help a lost generation of workers, the regional boss of U.S. conglomerate General Electric says.
updated 12:06 PM EST, Thu November 14, 2013
Peer at the windows and you'll spot big colorful chairs, plastic plants and a huge bed, but this is no department store.
updated 5:06 AM EST, Tue November 19, 2013
There once was a time, many years ago, when the sounds of bagpipes struck fear into the stomachs of Englishmen.
updated 6:16 AM EST, Mon November 11, 2013
Greece is on the way to economic recovery as investor faith returns to the recession-ridden eurozone nation, an executive at Greece's largest bank has told CNN.
updated 7:00 AM EST, Fri November 8, 2013
Could Greece's famous spice help the country's farmers through a four-year long economic crisis.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Fri November 1, 2013
One of the masterminds behind the euro says Europe would have suffered a far worse fate if the single currency had never been created.
updated 1:41 PM EDT, Thu October 31, 2013
Nina Dos Santos visits the Dutch city where the European treaty carrying the city's name came into force 20 years ago.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri October 25, 2013
As Spain continues its drive to slash budgets and cut spending, one of the nation's favorite pastimes is under threat as ministers look for ways to boost productivity.
updated 12:17 PM EDT, Thu October 24, 2013
The high commissioner of Brand Spain talks about getting the country back on its fee and attracting business.