On the wave of practical popularity and demand
By Nadezhda Radivonova
Smilovichi Felting Factory has recently expanded its sales market, having previously sold 70 percent of its goods to Russia. Last year, Russia accounted for only around 30 percent of sales, with other foreign countries rising in significance. The enterprise’s felt boots enjoy great popularity in the Baltic States, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany and Canada. Moreover, serious co-operation is planned with Polish partners and new footwear models are being developed jointly with Polish specialists especially for this market.
Felt boots are also popular in Belarus. The factory store in Smilovichi sells boots worth around Br70m daily while average production output is worth around Br120m each day. “Demand for our goods is rising annually. In 2011, production volumes rose by 15 percent in physical terms. Meanwhile, there was a 16 percent rise in January 2012 compared to the same period of the previous year,” explains Director Vasily Saban.
Smilovichi Felting Factory (part of Bellegprom Concern) is Belarus’ only producer of felt boots, and one of a handful within the CIS. It makes 28 designs of boot, in addition to manufacturing technical felt, woollen blankets and pillows, and sauna sets. It is capable of manufacturing 250,000 pairs of felt boots annually, using 500 tonnes of sheep wool — imported from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Kazakhstan and Mongolia are also to supply wool in future.
Felt boots are thought to originate from the early 18th century, becoming widely popular in the first half of the 19th century, when industrial production grew. They are worn largely by rural residents, constructors, ice fishermen and, even, those with an eye to eccentric fashion trends.