Despite political turmoil and a complicated global climate, executives at both Micam — Europe’s biggest footwear trade show — and leather goods fair Mipel were cautiously optimistic about their upcoming editions. Both shows will run Sept. 16 to 19 at the Milano-Rho fairgrounds.
Micam CEO Tommaso Cancellara said the event would count more than 1,400 exhibitors and about 45,000 visitors at this edition. “We also expect [to attract] more buyers who typically come to Milan only for Fashion Week — as Micam is in tandem with it,” he said.
Riccardo Braccialini, president of Mipel and Assopellettieri, Italy’s leather manufacturers association, said the Mipel trade show will host around 300 exhibitors and is expected to attract more than 12,000 visitors. “We are already [seeing] a lot of interest and positive feedback,” Braccialini added.
For the upcoming shows, Micam and Mipel partnered on The U.S.A. Influencers project. A group of American digital personalities will be invited to the Milano-Rho fairgrounds to spotlight the Italian know-how on display at both fairs through their social media channels.
According to Cancellara, the goal of the project is “to bring the U.S. back to the first position in terms of Italian exports outside Europe. There’s a gap to fill,” he said. In the first quarter, exports to the country were up 10 percent in terms of quantity, while value dropped 10.2 percent compared with the same period a year earlier.
“Key U.S. players believe the time is for Italian footwear. It can play the leading role thanks to the quality of its products, its heritage and its focus on sustainability,” Cancellara said. He added that reaching more of the right U.S. buyers is key to the show going forward.
Meanwhile, both executives expressed concerns about the global economy. Braccialini said the leather goods business is less dented than other businesses, while Cancellara admitted the footwear industry’s performance has been uneven.
According to data released by Italy’s footwear association Assocalzaturifici, overall Italian footwear exports — in terms of value — were generally flat in the first quarter, inching up 0.1 percent. Quantities, meanwhile, dropped 3 percent compared with the year-ago period.
“The domestic expenditure is flat. It’s been decreasing year-on-year, and global trading conditions are complicated, so I don’t feel confident in making a reasonable projection for 2018 as a whole,” said Cancellara.
A 2.8 percent drop in leather footwear exports is also a result of the sneaker fashion trend.
“However, we are sensing a comeback of leather shoes, which I believe in few seasons will be back on the fashion radar,” said Cancellara. He also revealed that starting in 2019, Micam will host a sneaker-related event in Milan under the “Plug-Mi” moniker. “We are not inventing anything revolutionary. On the contrary, we are late,” admitted Cancellara.
The show organizers were mixed on U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade stance. D’Alessandro expressed his concern about the U.S. government’s trade policy and added that he hopes the Italian institutions, along with the European Parliament, will be proactive about the issue.
The Micam CEO was more confident, noting that Trump’s trade policy won’t likely impact made-in-Italy footwear. “Unless political games are played, [we are not expecting] a trade war. We are much smaller than the industries President Trump is [targeting],” Cancellara said.
Along with the U.S., both trade shows’ organizers are committed to court business from new markets. Micam hit Southeast Asia this month with a promotional roadshow landing in Jakarta [Indonesia], Singapore and Kuala Lumpur [Malaysia], among other cities. The project was backed by Italy’s trade agency ICE and Assocalzaturifici. “The local middle class is getting richer and wants to adapt to international fashion trends, so [these countries] represent a great opportunity for us,” said Cancellara.
Japan is a target market for both Micam and Mipel. On July 2, Mipel presented ts “Tailor Made” project in Tokyo, aimed at strengthening the relationship between Italian companies and Japan, which “is still a booming market.”