GDS Attendees Hopeful About Fall ’14

DÜSSELDORF, Germany — Despite the lingering European crisis and a mild winter that led to sluggish business, both buyers and vendors at GDS said they were upbeat about fall ’14.

“Last year we had a very tough autumn and winter from a retail perspective, particularly in Europe because of the warm weather conditions,” said Stephan Krug, the region’s managing director for Highline United, which distributes international brands such as Elie Tahari, Ash, French Connection and Julian Hakes. “But we are very much satisfied with sales for the next season.”

Still, a number of retailers said they are sticking with smaller pairage, with plans to reorder as needed.

“Buyers are remaining conservative, not just because of the crisis but because the market is changing,” said Constanze Remke, who was purchasing a limited number of new styles for her boutique, Trendagents, in Hamburg, Germany. “One needs to offer new things more quickly now.”

Both retailers and vendors emphasized that customers are demanding originality.

“Customers value that we make custom orders available throughout the year,” said Harry Heinrich, owner of Knallgrau, a Munich-based agency representing fashion labels including the Italian shoe brand La Bottega di Lisa. “That’s individual service and it works great.”

Retail demand for special products and flexible orders are part of why GDS organizers have repositioned the trade fair’s timing, moving up the dates for its next event, to July 30 through Aug. 1.

“A trade show should highlight the innovation and news of the sector well ahead of the season, because otherwise everyone has already seen the collections and there is nothing new,” said GDS director Kirstin Deutelmoser. “Retailers have asked for this because planning the right assortment is becoming increasingly important for them.”

With the economy expected to slowly improve, Deutelmoser also anticipates growth in the industry this year, but not without some upheaval.

“We are going to lose some companies in retail and the industry,” she said, adding that those who fail to change with the times might not make it. “Retailers are realizing they have to do something different to survive. The companies with a clear profile, good stories and a special product will gain market share.”

On the trend front, colors, patterns and height tended toward the more conservative side, with sturdy black boots at the forefront of the most popular fashions.

“I’m looking for boots, boots and more boots, but in black and gray and in styles that are a bit more minimal than last year,” said Gisela Seeberger, a buyer for Lodenfrey, an upscale Munich department store and online retailer. “Brown is out.”

While booties remained a staple, there were also a number of knee and over-the-knee boots on display among the 800 vendor booths.

“Toes are pointy again, that’s the biggest trend I’ve seen,” said Ulrike Wolf-Neuhaus, owner of the Mingschou boutique in Cologne, Germany. “But women are still buying heels at medium height.”

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