The outbreak of the coronavirus in China continues to plague many parts of the footwear industry: corporate earnings forecasts, retail store closures, trade show attendance and, of course, inventory being shipped to the U.S.
While such conditions have many footwear retailers and wholesalers fretting over business in the second half of 2020, some brands at the Atlanta Shoe Market, held Feb. 15–17, 2020, said the deadly disease is creating an opportunity for them.
“Retailers [at the trade show] are asking me prior to getting started with us where our shoes are being made. They want to hear anything but China right now,” said Larry Paparo, president & CEO of Floafers, which makes its shoes in Vietnam. “We are not experiencing most of the issues facing the China factories today. The increases in tariffs and the overall cost increases in China these past years have made it exceptionally difficult to source there. Most of the China factories right now are opening up sister factories all around the globe, in places like Vietnam, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Brazil and Mexico. Then you add the coronavirus into the mix. These delays will certainly have effects all the way into the next big production time in the fall season.”
Italian brand Geox was also seeing interest from retailers looking to buy product that isn’t being manufactured in China.
The company, which produces largely in Cambodia, Vietnam, India and Croatia, has seen a pickup in business.
“We’re finding there is an opportunity to talk to people about the value of not being made in China,” said Roberto Perrone, U.S. country manager for Geox. “If you’re producing in China, you’ve definitely taken a hit with duties and the coronavirus. Retailers should think about it.”
So far, the confirmed death toll from the coronavirus is nearing 1,900, with more than 73,000 confirmed cases worldwide, though most of the cases were diagnosed in China.
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