A global market with reciprocity

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Riopele closed 2022 with a turnover of 92.6 million euros, representing year-on-year growth of 45%.

José Alexandre Oliveira recognises that this is a “clearly positive result, despite the demanding conditions, especially with the increase in raw materials and the abnormal growth in energy costs which naturally places constraints on operating income”.

2023 could be “a year of business consolidation”. For the Riopele Chairman, “the ambitious investment plan underway will be decisive for us to achieve new competitive gains”.

He points out that Riopele wishes to “capitalise on the know-how accumulated over decades involved in the development of fabrics for the fashion sector and so investment in other market segments could help to drive forward the company's expansion”.

How do you think the financial year of 2022 went?

We closed the year with a turnover of 92.6 million euros, which means one of the best figures ever achieved. For Riopele, it represented surpassing the activity recorded in the years immediately before the pandemic. It is a remarkable performance. However, I cannot fail to say that, as a result of the abnormal increase in gas and energy costs, margins and earnings were affected.

Has Riopele already recovered from the pandemic?

The year was clearly a year of recovery from the economic impact caused by the pandemic. It was also a year in which the company managed to reduce its gross debt to financial institutions. At the same time, important investments were made for the immediate future, namely, in the diversification and decarbonisation of energy sources with the implementation of the installation of a biomass unit for the production of thermal energy, steam and hot water, for the production process. Finally, I would like to highlight the reinforcement and improvement of working conditions at the company and the recognition of older workers who are still active. We achieved these results because Riopele has excellent professionals who have been able to turn challenges into opportunities.

You used to be the chairman of the industry association. How would you assess the current situation of the textile and clothing industry in Portugal?

The textile and clothing industry in Portugal has a very interesting evolution, even against a backdrop in which it faces several challenges. We must be at the forefront. I don’t see any other way. We need to keep investing in cutting-edge technology and automation, in a continuous innovation process and in new customer segments. Furthermore, it would be important for the principle of reciprocity in the global market to become a reality and for there to be incentives for companies and businesses to gain scale.

Is sustainability an opportunity for the Portuguese industry?

Portuguese companies should invest in sustainable materials, production with low environmental impact and fair and ethical work practices. Digitization, for example, can help textile companies improve production efficiency, cut costs and improve the customer experience. At another level, the textile industry has a long tradition in Portugal, but it is important to strengthen investments in terms of qualifying people and retaining talent.

Riopele is investing in other business areas such as the mobility sector. What does this mean for the company's future?

Riopele, due to its size and installed capacity, has sought to boost new business areas. Diversifying activity is a constant part of our strategy. We seek, moreover, to combine our long history and in-depth knowledge of the fashion and clothing segment with a creative, differentiating approach in the development of new products for the mobility sector. The technical textiles segment is one of the fastest-growing business areas internationally and it is endowed with enormous potential.

What are Riopele’s prospects for 2023?

For several months now we have understood that 2023 will be a highly uncertain and demanding year. Our ability to foresee short and medium-term challenges will prove to be fundamental in order not to be held hostage by the circumstances of the moment. One of the biggest challenges will be to maintain our path towards sustainability. Sustainability has been a priority for the company for years now and it is essential to our long-term success. That's why we have significant ongoing investments in the transition to renewable energy sources, as well as in the development of new products and processes in order to reach the ambitious commitment of becoming operationally carbon neutral by 2027.