Micam Buyers Look for Italy Edge

MILAN — To stand out from their big-box and e-commerce competitors, key U.S. independents attending Micam here last week were seeking innovative, made-in-Italy styles that aren’t readily available.

“Our goal is to have almost 100 percent exclusive product,” said Uri Krause, owner of Charlotte, N.C.-based Via Veneto. “The best way for us to compete is to find things that aren’t online. I’m buying a lot more here [than at other shows].”

Giovanni Marquez, owner of Boynton Beach, Fla.-based Fashion Shoppes Boutique and Fashionmenswear.com, said a strengthening economy gave him the confidence to increase his buy this season.

“Shoes continue to become a bigger part of our business, and the economy is much better than it was,” Marquez said, adding that he found plenty of versatile, year-round dress styles that offered newness. “Every retailer in America today has to be mindful of flash sales and [sell something different].”

The price-value equation was top of mind for many storeowners attending the four-day show, which closed last Wednesday.

“I found decent prices [for private-label styles] that allowed me to maintain that business,” said Lisa Gorlicki, a buyer at Boston-based The Tannery. But on the flip side, she said prices at some of the top Italian luxury brands continue to creep up, despite the improving exchange rate.

David Jassem, president of David’s Shoes in Beverly Hills, Calif., said he aimed to devote more of his fall buy to Italian product, but was struggling to find styles that could retail within his sweet spot of about $300.

“The air around there gets very thin,” Jassem said. “In this economy, there is still price resistance.”

On the trend front, some retailers said they were pleased with the fresh direction at the show.

“We are seeing newness in silhouettes, heel heights and shapes, as well as materials and color,” said Sarah Sarner, buyer for women’s contemporary and branded footwear at Toronto-based Holt Renfrew. “Booties continue to be a strong trend, especially the mod-inspired Chelsea boots.”

“We saw a lot of interesting motorcycle boots,” added Richard Kirshenbaum, founder and partner of Shoebox New York. “We also liked that there were a lot of sneakers. That’s something we don’t usually sell a lot of.”

Hanig’s Footwear owner Peter Hanig, who was shopping the show with son Daniel, agreed that there was some freshness, but noted that many of the more-youthful fashion items were similar to those found at FN Platform.

Overall, though, he still found a lot to like. “We planned for — and bought — about 25 percent more than last year, based on a successful season,” Hanig said.

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