Shoemakers take a toll as another COVID outbreak rages in Putian

A sudden COVID-19 outbreak in east China's footwear capital Putian has caught the local shoe industry on the hop.

September 14, people line up to get nucleic acid test in Putian. Photo from CFP

September 14, people line up to get nucleic acid test in Putian. Photo from CFP

By WEI Xianghui


Putian in Fujian Province is in the grip of a minor COVID outbreak. The Xiesheng shoe factory is a key point in the spread of the epidemic. It is a relatively large shoe factory for the local area with about 100 employees, now quarantined a hotel.

Most factories in Putian City have ceased production with employees under home quarantine and wages still being paid.

On September 14, Fujian reported 139 locally transmitted COVID-19 cases, 94 of which were from Putian.

Putian is home to more than 4,200 shoe manufacturers, making over 1.3 billion pairs of finished shoes each year, driving the upstream and downstream chains.

Putian's express delivery business has come to a standstill, affecting the whole county. E-commerce is grinding to a halt. No delivery dates can be given. To keep their customers, most factories are offering deals to those willing to wait.

The lockout has spilled over into the large number of downtown wholesale shops, many of which have been forced to close. The streets are almost empty. Wholesalers engaged in e-commerce face logistics difficulties.

WANG Dechun, secretary-general of the Putian Footwear Association, said the association is following the instructions and may later come up with a compensation plan for the factories.

Putian accounts for nearly 10 percent of the country's finished footwear, but exports are on the decline. Previously indentured to overseas brands, Putian has begun to adjust by launching its own brands, developing e-commerce, and embracing creativity. In June, the Putian Footwear Association collectively applied for a trademark and issued a group standard.