German shoe industry executives note that more and more suppliers are posting earlier closing dates for certain lines, partly because of growing sourcing problems in the Far East. A survey conducted by the magazine Schuhkurier among German specialist shoe retailers seems to indicate that they have reacted in kind. According to the survey, 53 percent of all participating retailers stated that they are ordering earlier than in the last five years, whereas only 16 percent are ordering later and 31 percent have not changed their pattern.

When ordering for the fall/winter season, 54 percent of the interviewed retailers make their decisions for the majority of their product ranges in February. Thirty-four percent state that March is the most important month, while 9 percent say they order in January.

A similar pattern is seen in the timing for the spring/summer orders. Fifty-five percent of the retailers decide in August which brands and models they are going to order, 33 percent decide in September and 12 percent decide in July.

The findings of the survey are interesting in the light of the discussion about the date of GDS and other trade fairs in the industry, such as fairs held by buying groups, the Bread & Butter fair in Berlin and Micam in Italy.

When retailers were asked why they visit the fairs, 26 percent said they go to gather information about the newest trends, 25 percent search for new brands and 20 percent meet with important suppliers. Only 15 percent of the participating retailers said they actually place orders at the fairs. For most retailers, trade fairs are information tools that should offer a broad outline of the range of products in the market, preferably early in the season.

Forty-seven percent of the interviewed retailers think that trade fairs are very important, 48 percent believe that they are important and only 5 percent stated that they are not important at all. Thirty-seven percent of retailers try out two new suppliers they discover during the fairs, 27 percent test only one new brand, 15 percent try three new brands and 12 percent add more than three brands to their product range. Only 9 percent of the participating retailers do not change their product range at all.

Regional trade fairs at trademarts, the GDS and the trade fairs organized by cooperatives like ANWR and Sabu are the most important fairs for retailers to place orders. Twenty-three percent of the respondents rate regional trade fairs as being important/very important for orders, versus 20 percent for the GDS and the cooperatives' trade fairs. Regional trade fairs have thus caught up with the GDS in its importance for retailers. Bread & Butter, Premium, Moda Made in Italy, Expo Riva Schuh, Micam and the Schuhfair, in that order, are less important for the participating specialist shoe retailers.