German Confidence Lifts Mood at GDS

DUSSELDORF, Germany — Amid the global economic downturn, the German footwear market seems to be faring better than most.

At the GDS and Global Shoes exhibitions, held here March 13-15, exhibitors and retailers said they noticed an upbeat sentiment among German players.

“The German economy is better than many others in Europe at the moment, so we have seen a lot of buyers from Germany and from Belgium,” said designer Jaime Mascaro, a regular at the show.

“Government measures have been taken to support consumers so that they have more money to spend,” said Kirstin Deutelmoser, GDS show director. Still, she acknowledged that difficulties in the economies of the U.S., Russia and the U.K. undoubtedly had an impact on the show.

But many exhibitors were happy with the turnout, particularly in the high-end White Cubes area (where demand continues to exceed availability of space).

Joe Ouaknine, CEO of Titan Industries, which was exhibiting at GDS for the first time, said he had done more business here than at WSA in February.

“I’m surprised by just how good it’s been,” Ouaknine said. “People who come here do so to write orders and do business. In Milan, they go to be seen.”

“Surprisingly, in this economic climate, we are doing very well, and we also had a great WSA,” added Virginie Trento, sales manager of Paris-based Maloles, which exhibited in White Cubes. “It seems U.S. buyers are looking for innovation more than ever before, especially when it comes to footwear that will retail for under $600.” Entrepreneur Venture, a Paris-based investment vehicle, injected an undisclosed amount of cash into Maloles in October 2008, and now the company’s mission is to grow the business.

“There aren’t many international buyers, but that doesn’t matter,” said Trento. “I’m here for the German market, so we have to be patient to get a good response.”

Upscale Portuguese women’s designer Luis Onofre debuted in White Cubes — and was looking to court more luxe retailers.

“Our biggest problem is the perception that made-in-Portugal is lesser quality than Spanish or Italian shoes, which is just not true,” said Onofre, who sells to Head Start Shoes in Philadelphia and Petit Peton in New York.

Another first-timer at GDS was British men’s comfort brand Steptronic. David Corben, the brand director, is a Northamptonshire shoe industry vet who previously showed other men’s brands such as Loake and John White at GDS. “I was surprised to meet with many Chinese retailers but very few buyers from the U.S., Holland or Russia at this edition of the show,” he said.

According to final figures from GDS, one out of every two of the 31,000 buyers who visited the show came from outside of Germany. One of these was Azerbaijan-based retailer Niyaki Gasimov. “When it comes to buying shoes, this is the only international shoe fair that we visit,” said Gasimov.

All told, more than 31,000 buyers came to the show, a 6 percent decline from year-ago levels. A total of 1,110 exhibitors from 38 countries attended.

“The quality of our visitors was very high,” said Deutelmoser. “All important buyers were represented, but with smaller teams. The atmosphere in the halls was very positive and characterized by constructive talks.”

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