Thousands of international visitors flew into Milan this week for the Micam and Lineapelle trade shows.
As soon as they stepped into the customs lines at the city’s airports, travelers faced a new reality: temperature checks to scan for the coronavirus.
While the simple cautionary measure might feel reassuring, footwear players have been on edge during the Milan trade shows this week.
Like every global fashion event, the show has seen a decline in attendees from China and other countries due to travel bans related to the coronavirus and its impact. And for those brands and retailers who are trying to carry on as normal, it’s been difficult to focus at times.
“This situation is the main concern of the world,” said Andreas Schlecht, who heads communications and the American business for Thierry Rabotin. “The foot traffic here has been reduced a lot.”
Thierry Rabotin and other key Italian brands, who represent the majority of the exhibitors at the show, are concerned about their business in China — an important growth market for large and small brands. They have been in regular communication with their partners there. “We are sending our samples to our main customer so they can pick out what they want to buy,” said Schlecht. “For the rest, we are using digital look books.”
While made-in-Italy brands are immune to manufacturing-specific challenges, several major names who produce their collections in China report that things have stalled.
“Obviously it’s been tough to manage with everything going on,” said Marty Greenwald, global sales director for Ortholite, which reopened up its factory in Wuhan, China yesterday. About 300 factory workers haven’t been able to return due to restrictions put in place by the Chinese government.
But Ortholite is in a better place than many firms who rely more heavily on Chinese production. “We’re in a unique situation because we’re a global company and we’re able to manufacture in other places. Our Vietnam facilities will be able to support China. And the team did a good job of getting stock in place in the factory prior to the Lunar New Year,” Greenwald added.
For other companies, short-term costs are increasing and transportation delays are hindering the flow of goods.
“It could be a problem for our deliveries,” said Andree Lohoff, who works in sales for German vendor Tamaris. The company partners with an agency in China and is trying to shift some of its production into factories that are up and running.
For Spanish athletic apparel and shoe brand Joma, only two styles have been impacted by delays so far. But the company is closely monitoring the situation to see what transpires in the coming days.
Still, some executives at Micam said the mood was brighter than expected and business is getting done.
“It’s going better than we thought it was going to be coming into the show. Micam is our most important fair,” said Imanol Martínez Gomez, marketing and international business development director for the Federation of Spanish Footwear Industries. “Of course, there are fewer buyers from Asia. We were surprised to see fewer people from Germany and the United Kingdom. Some of the bigger companies have travel restrictions.”
The Micam Take
Micam CEO Tommaso Cancellara told FN that about 4% of Micam’s total visitors were expected to come from China for this edition of the show — and they are noticeably absent. “Still, it’s not a tremendous loss because we don’t have as many Chinese buyers come in February as we do in September since this show typically overlaps with Chinese New Year,” Cancellara said. “We expect them to be here in [the fall]. Hopefully this health emergency will be over.”
While Chinese retailers and attendees from other parts of Asia are sitting out the show due to logistical issues, organizers said there’s also been some additional drop-off in attendance due to general anxiety surrounding the situation. Final show attendee numbers are expected to be released in the coming days.