Footfall down, but positive feedback from theMICAM
Positive news from a number of SATRA members who were showing their products at the Milan footwear show.
The fluttering banners around the Fiera Milano exhibition complex welcomed more than 35,000 visitors to the renamed theMICAM footwear show, held in the Italian capital of fashion during early March. This figure was lower than the 36,000 who visited the corresponding autumn/winter show in March 2012, although over 19,000 of the delegates were from outside Italy. More than 100 countries were represented with, according to the show organisers, a significant group of buyers coming from Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States area, as well as from France and Asia.
“We are pleased with the results obtained for theMICAM’s 75th edition”, said ANCI President, Cleto Sagripanti. “In keeping with the sharp drop in domestic demand, we’ve seen a decline in the Italian attendance and an increase in foreign operators.”
There were mixed reactions from the companies showcasing their latest collections, which filled eight halls at the fair grounds. Some complained of a ‘quiet’ event, and others remarked that it was ‘the best show ever’. It seemed that the majority of visitors knew exactly what – and perhaps even whom – they wanted to see. Many of the stands were crowded, with delegates patiently awaiting their turn to speak to a company representative, while other exhibits were deserted, apart from the two or three company employees who were left reading newspapers or magazines, or simply talking among themselves.
Being a show that brought together several million pairs of autumn/winter shoes and boots, it is perhaps no surprise that the overwhelming colour on display was black. A number of companies seemed to display nothing but black footwear, the result being that those shoemakers which had decided to display a vibrancy of different colours stood out like a beacon. It was evident that considerable sums of money had been spent by many exhibiting companies in order to attract attention to their stands. By contrast, other exhibitors had apparently turned up with little more than a table full of shoes and some brochures. Sadly, these were often the companies suffering from a lack of footfall across their threshold – especially from those visitors who had come to explore what theMICAM had to offer, rather than head straight for an existing supplier.
There was a new area of the show dedicated to children’s footwear, and advertised around the showground by a team of red-nosed clowns carrying direction arrows. Unfortunately, the positioning of the stands – tucked away at the back of hall 4 and about as far from the main entrances as it was possible to get – meant that few visitors reached these specialist companies. This issue was raised during the international press conference attended by Mr Sagripanti and his fellow ANCI director Fabio Aromatici, who promised to see if any changes needed to be made for the next edition.
Spikes, studs and comfortable shoes
There was a noticeable design trend that could be seen in many collections throughout the show – the use of metallic studs or, in some cases, quite long metal spikes. These were incorporated into a variety of footwear styles, from high-leg boots to high-heeled court shoes, and even canvas-uppered plimsolls.
Another design element seen around the show was the use of the British Union Flag, often incorporated in both footwear uppers and bags. This image, as well as the use of the name ‘London’ and photography of key landmarks such as the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace and Tower Bridge adorned a number of stands, most of which were occupied by shoemakers from other parts of the world.
Perhaps the most influential design trend seen around the exhibition was comfort, with a significant number of companies marketing this as the key feature of their footwear collections. With a variety of designs on display incorporating flexible treads, as well as supple uppers, breathable linings and cushioning insoles, the provision of comfort has forced its way onto the manufacturer’s checklist of essential features.
Reaction to the show
Peter Youell, Skechers’ Managing Director for the UK and Ireland, expressed his satisfaction with the level of interest being shown by theMICAM visitors, and explained the attraction of the company’s product range.
“The Skechers brand is strong globally,” he said. “It’s now the second biggest in the US and tenth in the UK. The brand has a good reach, and is being marketed to all genders and ages.
“This is the best product line I’ve seen in a long time,” added Mr Youell. “The ‘Go Walk’ line is the fastest selling Skechers product worldwide and is exceptionally lightweight and comfortable.”
According to FitFlop International PR Manager, Katie Neiman, theMICAM provided an ideal opportunity to showcase the company’s increasing range of styles and its technological achievements, with the brand now catering for more formal, casual and play-related wear.
“FitFlop is marketed as both an aspirational and an innovative brand, capturing the mindset of men and women who don’t want their shoes to let them down, and who are looking for style and exceptional comfort,” she explained. “Our sandals are selling particularly well in both Asia and the Middle East, and there is very positive growth in the USA. In addition, five FitFlop stores have opened in Indonesia and the Philippines.”
While we discussed the show in the middle of FitFlop's well-visited stand, Ms Neiman explained that the UK-based company has launched a new slimmer ergonomically optimised ‘Biomimetix’ midsole. She described how this new product is both thinner and narrower than the triple-density classic ‘Microwobbleboard’ midsole, which was designed by biomechanists at London South Bank University and previously used on FitFlop footwear.
“The Biomimetix midsole, which is part of the new FitFlop FF2 collection will suit slimmer silhouettes and slimmer feet, making it especially suitable for the Asian market,” she remarked. “All-year-round, feel good footwear has helped to secure FitFlop’s status as the best-selling brand in a number of Asian department stores, and increased our popularity in several premium shopping malls.”
William Church, joint managing director of Joseph Cheaney & Sons, was enthusiastic about his company having a presence at the Milan exhibition. “We’re at MICAM because it is recognised as a global footwear show,” he said, “and there is a healthy appetite for English welted footwear shown by customers around the world.”
Mr Church stressed the importance of being unambiguous when it comes to the major selling point of a brand. “The description ‘Made in England’ is especially appreciated in emerging markets,” he explained. “There is a growth opportunity for both export and retail in many countries, including China, Japan and South Korea.”
Three years ago, 20 per cent of Cheaney footwear was exported. Today the figure is closer to 40 per cent, with these products reaching virtually every part of the world.
Joseph Cheaney & Sons entered the world of e-commerce two years ago, and the website has proved very popular, according to Mr Church. Currently about 40 styles selected from the company’s range are marketed this way, and sales of the boot collection are proving particularly strong.
“This year has been one of our best MICAM shows ever,” said Mark Hadden, international sales manager of Loake Brothers. “Loake has recently had to employ new international administration staff, as well as creating a new role of European sales manager for Richard Utting. This is as a result of the increase in sales in Europe, which has always been a very important market for Loake classic Goodyear welted footwear.”
There have been a number of new styles introduced to the Loake catalogue, in addition to some classic designs being updated, the majority of which are made in the Kettering factory.
“Dainite rubber-soled Goodyear welted shoes are proving particularly popular in northern Europe, where they have colder winters,” added Mr Hadden. “In the Asian market, the ‘Made in England’ description is crucial to reinforce the quality image of Loake. Our shoes are now sold in over 70 countries around the globe.
“The fact we have a by return stock service on all our classic Loake styles is proving to be key in attracting new customers to our brand,” he continued. “Our factory is working hard to keep pace with the increased demand. This looks like it will be another record year for Loake exports.”
David Corben, managing director of Steptronic concluded that theMICAM Milan shoe show had been a marvellous event because, although the attendance had been down on the previous year, the interest from visitors had increased.
“We have picked up new business from Andorra, Belgium, Japan and Thailand at the show,” he enthused. “The number of orders we have taken at this edition of MICAM has been the most ever – in fact, it has been the best personal exhibition experience I have had in 28 years of exhibiting at footwear fairs.”
All of the shoes in the Steptronic range are developed by Mr Corben and his partner Simon Dickie, and based on a simple premise – David knows exactly what he would look for in a shoe he would buy, and so sets out to create his ‘ideal’ product.
While I was speaking to Mr Corben, a buyer arrived on the stand and announced that she needed some more Steptronic stock from the spring/summer range as soon as possible for her company’s retail outlets in Singapore. She explained that this urgent request was necessary because the Steptronic footwear her company has is selling so quickly.
After just four years of trading, Steptronic footwear is now available in around 2,500 stores in some 30 countries worldwide. Mr Corben concluded by remarking how important it is to pay considerable attention to supporting retailers with good point-of-sale widow display material and providing newspaper and magazine support for the company’s overseas partners.
Heading for China
In a meeting of representatives of the international footwear press, Mr Sagripanti and Mr Aromatici
described the importance of the new theMICAM Shanghai show. They mentioned that 250 exhibiting companies had reserved space at the show, half of which were from outside China. Mr Sagripanti said that ANCI’s intention is for the Shanghai event to set the pace of the Asian footwear market, and that he believes that this Chinese show will help to boost European footwear manufacturing.
Ke Bai, chief editor of Leon magazine in Shanghai shared his insight into what the Chinese consumer is looking for in footwear. Over the past 30 years, he said, shoppers have turned from only buying from big labels to purchasing from small, individual labels. Chinese consumers have become more elegant and sophisticated, and want unique products to emphasise this change in status.
According to Mr Bai, there are three elements in footwear that sells well in China. Firstly, a brand with history (some manufacturers do not stress this valuable commodity enough – “no story, no selling,” he commented), secondly, youthful design and, thirdly, high-quality production techniques.
“The shoe-buying audience in China is younger than many footwear manufacturers realise,” commented Mr Bai. “This is a segment not to be missed.”
Distribution networks in China are still developing, he stated, as is the economy. E-commerce selling within China is still lagging some way behind some other Asian countries, such as Japan and South Korea, but is catching up.
Mr Aromatici reminded everyone in attendance that ANCI had promised to make theMICAM a more international show – a promise he believed had been kept. He explained that the new name and logo had been introduced to market the event as the world’s most authoritative and significant footwear event and, that possibility for the first time, there were more overseas buyers than their Italian counterparts.
The final word goes to Mr Aromatici, who once again stressed how important China has become to the Italian footwear industry.
“Five years ago, China was seen as a threat to the Italian footwear industry; now the nation is viewed as an opportunity,” he remarked. “That is why I am now learning Chinese.”
This article was originally published on page 8 of the May 2013 issue of SATRA Bulletin.