In spite of the economic crisis, which has led many companies to cut down their budgets, the most recent June 6-9 edition of the Expo Riva Schuh largely maintained its numbers, confirming the fact that the desire for market information is as high as ever. In fact, while many of our colleagues in the so-called trade press have seen their advertising revenues drop sharply, the number of our subscribers has remained steady to this date so far this year.

The number of visitors accredited at the mass market show on Lake Garda remained largely flat at 10,247, including 6,117 from outside Italy. This compares with overall attendance by 10,250 registered guests one year ago, including 6,213 non-Italians.

The number of exhibitors was up slightly to 1,157, including 787 firms from 36 countries outside Italy, compared with 1,106 a year ago. The exhibition area was expanded slightly to 32,216 square meters by converting an overhead parking lot in the main fairgrounds to a new hall next to the new self-service restaurant, but a water leakage led one of the new exhibitors, the big Tata group from India, to take some samples away from its shelves. The new space allowed the growing French Royer Group to place many of its operations under a single roof, mirroring what Cortina did previously by annexing the premises of the former restaurant in the basement.

Apologizing for the inconvenience, the management of Expo Riva Schuh indicated that plans for the new fairgrounds were advancing, but could not give a firm date. Better parking facilities should become available as of the next show in January 2010, however, as local authorities have been able to reclaim some adjoining land that was previously classed as agricultural.

Business at the fair was described as unexpectedly brisk, although many buyers were found reducing the size of their pre-orders and seeking lower price points. The biggest drops in the demand are coming from Russia, the Baltic countries and Eastern Europe generally. Officials of some trading companies found that demand had increased for their services because of the credit crunch, as it relieves the buyers from the need to open letter of credits with Far East suppliers and minimizes the risk of non-delivery, while cutting back on sourcing costs.

A survey carried out recently by the German consultant Hermann Fuchslocher indicated that 75 percent of the order-to-buys for the autumn/winter 2009/10 in the German clothing retail sector remain still unfilled, and a similar pattern is shaping up in footwear. At the GDS fair in Düsseldorf last month, order-taking was down by 30 percent.

Like the final consumers, buyers are spending more time to discuss the advantages of buying one product rather than another. They are more attentive to the price/quality ratio and to service factors, and they are taking longer to make a decision. That was one of the highlights of a panel discussion animated by Fuchslocher during the Expo Riva Schuh show. Buyers are also appreciating the possibility to re-order merchandise during the selling season.

Buyers praised the continued improvement in the quality of products made in China and Vietnam, but didn’t see any major novelties or any major new trends in the offer, except for a few new items in the young fashion segment.

A survey recently conducted at Expo Riva Schuh showed half of the exhibitors reporting that half of the visitors at their booths had come to place orders. Another 30 percent said 75 percent of the visitors were buying. Overall, exhibitors reported that they had received orders by an average of ten buyers during the show, in addition to making contacts for possible representation by agents and distributors.