Micam Buyers Upbeat Despite Economic Woes

MILAN — Even amid growing worries about the global economy, footwear players at last week’s Micam show were generally positive about next spring.

American designers and retailers at the trade show, held here Sept. 18-21, said a healthy footwear market, particularly in the high-end sector, is fueling their confidence.

“International buyers weren’t more anxious [because of the economy],” said designer Stuart Weitzman. “[In fact], they were buying with pleasure because the attitude [about] footwear for next season is so uplifting and colorful. I particularly like to work with people at Micam because they’re creative and individualistic buyers. They’ve left their computers at home.”

Weitzman called out Australia as one market that is “exploding” for his label.

A number of U.S. retailers shopping the floor saluted the styles on display.

“We found lots of color, which we believe will be a key trend, as well as new espadrilles and mixed-media wedges,” said Debbie King, VP and DMM of women’s shoes at Bloomingdale’s. “The dress category continues to be a major [story] for us as well.”

Lisa Gorlicki, buyer for The Tannery, came to the show looking to top off her spring assortment after completing 75 percent of her buy at FFANY in New York and FN Platform in Las Vegas.

“Coming to Micam helps me validate my purchases and correct my mistakes,” Gorlicki said. “I want to make sure I keep our customers engaged.”

Nathan Newell, owner of Halo Shoes in Portland, Ore., said his focus is on stocking European product, which has kept consumers loyal to his store.

“Made-in-Italy gives me legitimacy with my customers. They love hearing about where these factories are and what their stories are. And I would rather work with a small Italian factory than a big company,” Newell said, adding that he is stocking more European product for spring compared with a year ago.

Newell, who recently relocated his store to a larger space in downtown Portland, was particularly interested in finding manufacturers who were willing to make private-label shoes for his company.

On the trend front, the retailer said he was hunting for pointy-toe, high-heeled looks, which have seen a major resurgence in the women’s market.

“The Italians have such an amazing breadth of that type of product,” he said. “Every time I come here, I find a new factory or new designer.” His discovery this time around was Italian label Rocco P. “Their shoes are beautifully made and they did some crazy patent leather looks,” he said.

But not every retailer was as enthusiastic.

“We came here looking for excitement, but we didn’t find much of it,” said Richard Kirshenbaum, owner of Shoebox New York. “There was a lack of fresh direction.”

The retailer speculated that economic uncertainty has prompted many vendors to stay conservative. “No one was taking risks,” he said.

Still, Kirshenbaum said he found a handful of new brands and would decide whether to place orders once he returned home and compared notes with his buyer who had attended Sole Commerce and Coterie in New York last week.

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