The GDS will be held for the last time at Messe Düsseldorf's fairgrounds on Feb. 7-9. It will also be the end for its simultaneous sourcing show, Tag it!  Just before the start of the successful Expo Riva Schuh show at Riva del Garda in Italy on Jan. 14, Messe Düsseldorf announced that it was transferring the responsibility for its shoe trade shows, the GDS, to the Igedo Company, which organizes the Gallery Fashion apparel show in Düsseldorf, starting with the next season.

The GDS has gone through many changes in size, format and timing during the 60-plus years of its existence. Noting that the shoe sector itself has radically changed over the past few years and that the pace of change has picked up again lately, Matthias Dornscheidt, president and chief executive of Messe Düsseldorf, said the format of the GDS “no longer seems to be the right format for the current challenges within the shoe sector.”

Ulrike Kähler, who managed the transformation in 2012 of Igedo's former CPD show into the Gallery Fashion concept, will present a new concept for the troubled shoe show on Feb. 7, during next month's GDS. No details have been given so far. There is no doubt that the new fair will be smaller, as it will be held at Düsseldorf's Areal Böhler venue, which is said to have capacity for a maximum of 8,000 square meters of exhibition space, against 25,000 sqm. used by the GDS lately.

The new fair will not be called GDS anymore to mark that it will be based on a new concept. Messe Düsseldorf says the new show will be held in late August or early September, and the uncertainty about the date will probably persist until Feb. 7. Last September, it had announced a shift in the dates of the summer sessio n of the GDS from the end of July to Sept. 3-5, taking the former time slot of theMicam, which is moving its own dates to Sept. 17-20. Industry officials clearly prefer early September to late August, particularly in view of the demands of international visitors and exhibitors, but it seems that the space at Areal Böhler is already booked for that period.

Asked for comments, big former supporters of the GDS show like Ara or Wortmann said that they were waiting for Igedo's new proposals before signing up for the new concept. They found the idea of a more compact show with smaller stands attractive, as they have not been getting the expected return on their investments on huge spaces at the GDS. Ara reduced its space recently from 650 to 300 sqm.

The GDS has been playing a stronger role domestically as well as internationally for several large and small brands of comfort shoes than the expanding fashion fairs in Berlin or theMicam in Milan. Many of them continue to introduce their new collections earlier in the year at Expo Riva Schuh, which has been attracting more than just the mass market shoe retailers lately.

The GDS has also managed to retain many brands of children's shoes. However, after the clamorous retreat of Gabor, which had one of the biggest stands at the GDS, Ricosta, the major German brand of children's footwear announced a few days ago that it was not going to exhibit at next month's GDS, citing reduced attendance levels. Ricosta's decision is significant because it had pulled out of the GDS before, coming back only after the show's management agreed to earlier dates. Furthermore, Ralph Rieker, president of Ricosta, is also the chairman of HDS/L, the German shoe and leathergoods industry association.

Another major children's shoes company, the Austrian-based Legero Superfit group, pulled out of the GDS in 2012 and never came back. It participates only in Expo Riva Schuh and at CIFF Kids in Copenhagen, which is important for the Scandinavian market. It likes Expo Riva Schuh because it can present its new collections on a smaller and relatively inexpensive surface and get feedback from about 150 accounts that represent half of its total annual sales of five million pairs.

Messe Düsseldorf's decision to give up on the GDS follows a steady erosion of the number of exhibitors and visitors in the past year. A total of 550 brands will exhibit at the next GDS fair in Düsseldorf, down from 800 a year earlier and 740 last July. The number of exhibitors at Tag it!, the parallel shoe sourcing fair, will remain stable at around 100. Major players like Ara, Josef Seibel, Rieker and Wortmann will continue to exhibit at the show next month. That goes also for brands such as Buffalo, Dr. Martens, Panama Jack or Superga. Italy's Fabi will be among the newcomers.  

Clearly, the GDS has been affected from the growing competition coming from the Berlin Fashion Week. Mixing apparel with shoes and accessories, Bread & Butter kick-started the fashion season, attracting many footwear brands in the upper-medium segment of the market that were previously showing in Düsseldorf. While B&B went under before turning itself into a consumer-oriented festival sponsored by Zalando, Premium, Panorama and other fashion fairs have been building up their shoe sections in recent seasons. Early reports from the Berlin Fashion Week indicate that it began with a strong momentum this past Tuesday. More in our next issue.

The demise of the GDS is a clear victory for Expo Riva Schuh, a more volume-oriented trade show that was initiated by German sales agents for pre-sampling purposes. It allows big and small suppliers to get some re-orders for the next season and early orders for the subsequent one. The organizers of that show were concerned about GDS‘ competition when it moved to earlier dates along with Tag it!. However, the number of exhibitors has continued to climb. After a small dip in 2014, the number of visitors has been growing, and it stablized at at higher level during the session ended last Tuesday (see the article on Expo Riva Schuh in this issue).

The phaseout of the GDS will probably benefit Expo Riva Schuh and the Berlin Fashion Week as well as the new European Shoeshow led by Frank Hartmann, a former project manager of the GDS. A total of 170 brands have already signed up for its first edition, due to take place on March 12 and 13 in Cologne, filling 90 percent of the rented space. The catalog of the exhibitors is online, and it includes some companies that will also show in Düsseldorf.

Projecting a possible surge in the number of participants at the Sept. 24-25 edition of the European Shoeshow, its organizers have taken an option on double the space in the fairgrounds of another city north of Cologne, in the same region of Germany, whose name is being kept secret for the moment. 

Kirstin Deutelmoser, the project manager who worked very hard to make the GDS more attractive and more useful, will be given a new assignment at Messe Düsseldorf. Maria-Sawa Possinke, manager of GDS' press department, will leave Messe Düsseldorf next week to work for Premium, the organizer of many fashion shows in Berlin that is enlarging its footprint in the shoe sector, in tune with the apparel retailers' growing interest in footwear and accessories.