Challenges Continue for Spanish Market

MADRID — While business has picked up across much of Europe, Spain’s recession continues to spell trouble for footwear producers.

“It’s costing a lot to survive. We’ve reduced prices and margins as much as we can,” said Juanjo González, head of the Elda, Spain-based women’s brand Uad Medani, during the Modacalzado show, held here March 11-13. “Globalization has had its consequences. Today’s customer wants Chinese prices. We are trying to hold on.”

But for Chie Mihara, co-owner and designer of her eponymous brand, survival is not about lower prices.

“It’s about giving value to your product with good design, quality and particularly [good] customer service,” she said, adding that includes offering exchange options if the merchandise doesn’t move.

Other vendors were more upbeat about business prospects.

“We really haven’t noticed the crisis,” said Isabel Castañer, president of Castañer, which was one of 41 brands exhibiting in Modacalzado’s special open area, Espacio Glam.

“Retailers trust us. They’re making money with the brand. People are buying tried-and-true. Business for summer was up over last year, and so far, we haven’t stopped.”

Outside of the core Spanish lineup of brands, there were a number of first-time exhibitors at the trade show, including Capelta, a Los Angeles-based boot label.

“The show is remarkable. On the first day we opened five new accounts,” said Capelta CEO Michael Jahina.

For their part, buyers were cautious about fall and were looking for product to differentiate them from other retailers.

“People are out shopping and they’re still buying wild things, but in smaller quantities,” said David Casey, owner of Author Shoes, a five-store chain in central London. Casey said a big part of his fall buy is “a combination of fashion and comfort,” including booties and shoes in distressed leathers and suede with flexible rubber bottoms. “Spanish prices are good and the quality is exceptional,” he added.

Luc Vermander, children’s buyer for Stabifoot, a division of Brigitte Ravel in Roeselare, Belgium, was sampling boys’ and girls’ leather sandals for spring ’11. “The Spanish show is small and local, but I get ideas here,” he said.

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