Strong Euro Worries GDS Buyers

Düsseldorf, Germany — The exchange rate was top of mind for many buyers attending last week’s GDS show here.

Foreign retailers from the U.S. and U.K. markets said they were keeping a close eye on price, and several had to trim buys at the show.

“As a result of the weak U.S. dollar, we’ll have to cut back on orders this time,” said Lenny Comeras, owner of Easton Shoes in Columbus, Ohio. “The overall dollar amount we spend here is the same, except that we get a lot less product for it.”

Comeras also cited high prices for raw materials, shipping expenses and the unpredictable state of the economy as factors impacting his buys. “We’re spending, but we’re extremely careful,” he explained.

And this was the sentiment among most buyers doing business in non-euro currencies at GDS.

Robert Lepre, co-owner of Bondstreet Shoes in Pittsburgh, said he wanted to make sure he was getting top-notch design and high quality from European brands.

“There’s an added value justifying the higher price,” explained Lepre. “The concept of our store is to stock European labels. We absolutely have to order in this region.”

U.K. retailers also were being more cautious this time around. “British buyers are going to order about 20 percent less product than last year,” estimated Nicholas Parry-Billings of Fashion Industry Trade Solutions and the British Footwear Association.

On the trend front, comfort was key at GDS as buyers gravitated toward walkable heels and waterproof layers, as well as reasonable price points.

“Everyone is looking into comfort right now,” said Mary-Ann Price, joint managing director of Macsamillion, a footwear retailer with three doors in Oxford, England. “Some of these shoes feel like they have been specially fitted.”

Lepre said that instead of a sky-high heel, women are now looking for an elevated platform, a wedge or a chunky heel attached to an ankle bootie. “But for men, the story is a little cleaner and dressier. It still hints of past times, but it’s not as destroyed,” he added.

Finally, some buyers questioned the lack of newness in the market. “I don’t think vendors are being creative enough,” said Comeras.

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