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Buyer Outlook Improves at GDS

DÜSSELDORF, Germany — With the worst of the financial crisis in Europe seemingly behind them, buyers looking around for spring ’14 styles at GDS here this week had a relaxed, but practical approach.

“I just let myself be inspired and buy from my gut,” said Kirsten Kees, owner of Auftritt, a shoe store in Dinskalen, Germany.

She said she aims to avoid getting carried away with large orders. “I’ve been buying a little less at the outset, and then I order more to fill stock later,” said Kees. “That way, I see what’s available and current when I’m reordering. There are always vendors you can buy from.”

GDS director Kirstin Deutelmoser sees a move toward micro seasons and more-detailed inventory strategies.

“The retailers try to think in different periods of the year,” she said. “They try to have new shoes in April and again in May, instead of selling them off-price starting in May because everything has already been seen. But this is the beginning of the process. I’ve heard them talk about that, but it still has to be proved if they really start to do things this way.”

Even in Germany — Europe’s anchor through the financial crisis — a re-examination of the relationship between brands and buyers is in order.

Profits were down 2.7 percent in the first half of 2013 over last year in the German shoe industry, according to show sources.

“I am thinking about the economy,” said Kees, adding that she has seen a slight drop-off in sales on the local level because of construction around her store, which has affected the number of parking places available.

“All told, a little bit less is being sold. I can’t judge how it’s going for others,” Kees added. “For me, it’s a little bit of both the local and national economy.”

On the trend front, classic colors have made a robust return.

“I’ve noticed lots of taupe, white and natural tones — lots of sandals with natural tones,” said Tanja Leidenroth, a retailer who runs the Shuhhaus Wiedey in Bielefeld, Germany. “I find it very beautiful. I like it a lot.”

Rita Lucke-Ensinger, owner of a shop outside Heidelberg, Germany, noticed the same trend. “Everything is becoming very monochrome for next year — almost no colors,” she said. “Everything is in white, black, silver, gray and metallic.”

Asked what she’s looking for at the fair, Lucke-Ensinger said without hesitation, “pointed ballerinas.”

Overall, there was a redoubled interest in flats for women at the fair, and wearability is becoming a more prominent concern for many brands.

“Things are going in the direction of comfort,” said Diana Dahlhoff, a buyer from Schuhbar in Berlin. She noticed many brands were interested in “the play between comfort and fashion through refined designs.”

To that end, there was an emphasis on flats for women, fashionable sneakers and even chic utility sandals across the fair.

Men’s shoes with wingtip-inspired details — jagged seams or punched floral designs on the toe — and shoes with chunkier elements also stood out as trends gaining momentum for the season.

“You can see stuff coming back, like big shoes with big soles and even thick soles on styles like penny loafers, but trendier,” said David Regimbeau, a representative for the French brand Kenzo, which is designed under the artistic direction of New York-based Opening Ceremony’s Humberto Leon and Carol Lim.

As buyers continue to tweak their strategies, show organizers are doing the same. Next year, GDS will hold its spring ’15 show from July 30 to Aug. 1 instead of the traditional time period of early to mid-September.

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