The organizers of the Expo Riva Schuh fair on Italy's Lake Garda report a 10 percent increase in the number of visitors to 13,213 for its latest edition earlier this month, as compared to January 2013. They came from 107 countries, establishing a new record. In particular, the figures show strong growth in attendance from the Asian subcontinent, from North America and from African countries such as Algeria, Tunisia and South Africa.

More than 80 percent of all the visitors are still Europeans. Strong participation was recorded this time from Italy, Germany and France as well as Spain and the U.K. The organizers noted that, in addition to the major shoe retail chains, many buyers from small and medium-sized shoe shops attended the fair this time. Several observers noted a major upgrading in the quality of the designs of the shoes on offer for the next autumn/winter season, in spite of the relatively early date of the show.

The Italian Trade Commission (Ice) has agreed in principle to start sponsoring visits by buyers from distant countries to the show, as it already does with theMicam, starting probably with the U.S.and Japan. These two countries account for only about 8 and 5 percent of all the non-European visitors at Expo Riva Schuh, but they are among the world's biggest shoe importers.

Roberto Pellegrini, who chairs the company that organizes the fair, called emphatically on public authorities to swiftly review and approve plans for the expansion and modernization of Expo Riva Schuh's fairgrounds, offering its participation in the investment. The company, in which public authorities have a 43 percent stake, made a profit of about €300,000 in 2012 on revenues of €14 million, but hotels, restaurants and other service providers in the area made extra revenues of around €24 million. Expo Riva Schuh is its biggest asset.

Public authorities accepted the principle of upgrading Expo Riva Schuh's fairgrounds six years ago. The organizers of Expo Riva Schuh are asking for at least 40,000 square meters of net space. They have rejected a recent proposal for 35,000-square-meter project as inadequate.

Surveys conducted last year show that 93 percent of the exhibitors want the fair to continue to last for at least four days, with some asking for an additional day, especially for pre-sampling purposes. They also indicate that 30 percent of the visitors stay for at least two days and that 12 percent remain for four days. The busiest times are all day Sunday and Monday morning, followed by Saturday. Most of the transactions are made in the price range of €16 to €30 per pair ex factory, but a growing proportion of the business involves price points above €60 per pair.

Despite the lack of funding for expansion and modernization, the fair managed to increase its net surface to 32,611 meters this month by creating a new connection between Halls A and B and taking more space in some of the hotels. As a result, the number of exhibiting companies rose by about 50 from a year ago to a total of 1,271, including 927 foreign firms. A collective exhibition of Albanian manufacturers was an interesting first at the fair. In a welcome improvement, experts who already worked at Frankfurt's airport have set up new signage that helps visitors to find the location of the halls and various services more easily than in the past.

A few weeks ago, Expo Riva Schuh launched its Facebook page, which has so far attracted some 1,500 likes. The next edition of the fair is scheduled for June 14-17.