GDS Attendees See Improving Business

DÜSSELDORF, Germany — As the European economy continues to improve, footwear players at last week’s GDS show were generally upbeat.

But they had mixed opinions about the timing of the show, which took place in July, versus its usual September schedule.

“For me, the fair is too early,” said Frank Fergen, who runs a namesake business in Langerwehe in northwest Germany that focuses on orthopedic shoes. “We don’t even have the winter inventory yet in stock. We don’t know what the new trend is going to be yet. But I have to order everything earlier and think everything out further in advance.”

For vendors, though, getting their product in front of buyers earlier was a positive.

“Early is good,” said Jorge Sampaio, a representative for Catarina Martins and Bernardo 1946, which are produced in Portugal. “The buyers — German, Belgian, Dutch, Swiss — they’re forced to make a decision now instead of waiting until September.” He said early retail feedback helps the company plan its production schedule more effectively.

Overall, vendors and retailers were upbeat about current sales trends, particularly in the German market. “Sometimes, it’s hard for us to imagine [the challenges] in the rest of the world, because for us, the retail sector is working well right now,” said GDS director Kirstin Deutelmoser, adding that southern Europe is starting to see a slow upswing.

Beyond the business at hand, international unrest was a major topic at the show.

Deutelmoser said Russia and Ukraine, two important markets in the sector, have dialed back participation. “Russia was a very important market, and the vendors really notice what’s going on there,” she said. “That’s a problem for the shoe industry at the moment.”

The war between Israel and Palestine in Gaza also affected the show.

Mary Pinchev, a shoe retailer from Kfar Saba, Israel, had a hard time arriving at the fair because German airlines canceled flights out of her country. All things considered, she said her business is going well.

“We feel it,” Pinchev said about the slowdown in the European economy in recent years. But her focus on athletic footwear has proven to be a winning strategy despite the environment. “You need athletic shoes all the time,” she said. “Even businessmen are going more for sport shoes.”

On the trend front, many brands were experimenting with different perforation details, including circular and diamond shapes. Plaited or woven-leather shoes were also popular, including tassel loafers for men and boots with a wedge heel for women.

The color palette for women’s shoes centered largely on soft, faded colors. “Colors are not so deep as they were last summer,” Deutelmoser said. One color specifically — a faded pink or old rose — appeared almost universally.

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