June Sanders, a men’s footwear buyer from Baltimore-based retailer DTLR Inc., said he was using his time at the fair to familiarize himself with European trends to forecast what might be popular with American consumers next year.
“A lot of customers in the U.S. just follow [what’s happening here],” Sanders said. “We definitely want to be on the edge of the trend curve.”
Sanders was especially interested in multipurpose shoes that men could wear both in the office and in their leisure time, designs with “a plain silhouette, that you can dress up or dress down.”
The buyer said he saw an abundance of men’s casual shoes inspired by more formal styles. “It seems like there’s a lot more oxford-type shoes, whether they’re hard bottom or soft bottom or a running bottom,” Sanders said.
As far as other trends at the fair, retailers across the board noticed an emphasis on color.
“Some colors — neons and golden colors — are different than last year,” said Johannes Dornisch from the Munich-based women’s shoe and accessories retailer Absatz. “Spring is going to be more colorful and playful again.”
Stephen Boehm from the Munich-based menswear store Eckerle said bright blues and different shades of orange caught his eye, while “retro sneakers inspired by real sports” were at the top of his list of must-have styles.
Outside of fashion trends, some retailers noted that higher prices are causing anxiety.
“Some styles are too expensive,” said Kay Amdrä, from the German retailer Solefood. “At New Balance, for example, shoes that last season cost 129 euros [$161 at current exchange] cost 159 to 169 euros [$199 to $211] for next season. This is too much.
“All the made-in-Asia styles are the same price,” Amdrä added, “but the made-in-the-U.K. or made-in-the-U.S. styles are becoming more expensive.”
For their part, U.S. vendors attending the fair said they received a strong response from retailers, despite economic woes.
Jennifer Melin Miller, director of international development for Minnesota-based Minnetonka Moccasin, which showed at the fair for the first time this year, said buyers seemed largely unfazed by the turmoil overseas.
“It doesn’t feel like the economy is hurting right now, but some European countries have it better than others,” she said. “Everyone is excited to see the colors for spring, but they’re also still buying for fall.”
Agelika Pöser, a sales agent for H.H. Brown in Austria and Germany, said the downturn was influencing the types of styles buyers gravitated toward. “People want to buy something they can have for a long time,” she said.
The company’s most popular shoe for next spring is a derby that has been updated with bright-colored soles.