"Any initiatives that provide further incentives to invest in domestic innovation, development, and manufacturing are welcomed," says the FDRA

"Any initiatives that provide further incentives to invest in domestic innovation, development, and manufacturing are welcomed," says the FDRA

The US footwear industry is calling on the government to ensure barriers to production are lowered, both at home and abroad, in order to protect the industry, as the Administration conducts its review of regulations that affect domestic manufacturing.

In a letter to the US Government, the Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America (FDRA) says the country is "on the cusp of a footwear production revolution" that will drive more American made product at every income level. Therefore, any initiatives that provide further incentives to invest in domestic innovation, development, and manufacturing are welcomed, it says.

"The key to any policy is ensuring barriers to production are lowered both here and abroad. This will encourage the development of further domestic capacity that will take the latest developments beyond niche athletic technologies to fully democratised production for our nation's 320m footwear consumers."

The FDRA points to three general areas of interest, Department of Labor (DOL) restrictions; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules; and trade liberalisation.

Of the former, the FDRA says restrictions could have "unintended consequences" on employers, such as the policy change under the Obama Administration for overtime rules that would have placed "a disproportionate burden on a number of industries including manufacturing and retail".

EPA rules, meanwhile, limit resources needed for leather footwear production and manufacturing component development, the FDRA says. While, the Association says that, with an annual duty burden of $3bn, footwear companies spend millions on duties that would otherwise go towards capital investments and supply chain enhancements, including the continued development of footwear production in the US.

"Lowering or eliminating duties unilaterally or via a Free Trade Agreement will quickly unleash much-needed capital to invest in factories here in America," the FDRA adds. "TPP alone would have freed up $500m a year and $6bn in the first decade for these important initiatives. Our hope is that the Administration will explore ways in which to find new avenues of duty reduction for our industry and American footwear consumers via dynamic bilateral or multilateral trade agreements.

"Our hope is that the Administration will explore ways in which to find new avenues of duty reduction for our industry and American footwear consumers via dynamic bilateral or multilateral trade agreements."

The Associations says that, while the US footwear industry continues to invest in high-value sectors, America has transitioned away from large-scale domestic footwear production. Despite being a sector of comparatively lower value, the FDRA says this type of production requires both significant investments in capital and a large workforce dedicated to learning the particular skills of shoemaking.

Recent investments from major brands have included the Reebok Liquid Factory in Rhode Island, Adidas' Speedfactory in Georgia, and the Under Armour Lighthouse facility in Maryland. These, the FDRA says, represent "important progress" for the domestic footwear industry, and proves the industry in making products closer to consumers and providing greater customisation.

It adds: "With these oncoming innovations in footwear production, more and more product will be produced closer to home or here in the US for distinct footwear companies. Regional production will also be established in important global markets to deliver much-need US footwear brands to consumers worldwide."

"FDRA stands ready to work with the Administration on this important issue and appreciates the opportunity to provide input on the current state of US footwear manufacturing."