The new president of the Expo Riva Schuh fair, Alberto Bertolini, is determined to improve its layout to make it easier for visitors to find what they want, and possibly to accommodate more collections. With China becoming such an important source of footwear for the whole world, he personally visited many fairs in China last Fall and talked to their organizers about possible cooperation and found the strongest interest from those of the Wenzhoul International Shoes & Leather Goods Trading Fair, whose 4th edition is due to be held next Apr. 21-23.

An agreement with them on the establishment of a new dedicated Chinese hall at next June’s session of the Italian fair was expected to be sealed during its latest session earlier this month, but their visit was postponed because they could not get their Italian visas on time. The Chinese hall would be rented out from an existing structure near the fair for this purpose. The deal would be a logical solution for the fact that shoe manufacturers from the Zhejiang area of China, which gravitates around Wenzhoul, form the largest contingent of exhibitors on the waiting list to show at Riva del Garda. Many current exhibitors from that area, which currently show next to agents and exhibitors from Italy and other European countries, would be moved to that hall, permitting a more rational reorganization of the crowed space.

The move would greatly please Italian exhibitors, who have resented the competition from the Chinese manufacturers located next to their stands, particularly because the quality of the Chinese products continues to improve, their prices are unbeatable and the European import quotas on them are being gradually lifted. For its part, ANCI, the Italian shoe industry association, is trying to persuade the management of Expo Riva Schuh to set up an Italian hall where the brands, especially those that are currently not represented by agents on the show, could do so.

The organizers of Expo Riva Schuh, which has a cooperation with the GDS in Düsseldorf because of its earlier complementary dates, are in a delicate position with regard to ANCI’s proposal. One stumbling block is the attitude of the agents, which helped to create the fair in 1973. They have a strong say under its statutes. ASSOPROV, the Italian-based association that groups some 80 agents from all over Europe showing on 3,800 square meters at the fair, is threatening to take its members to Munich if the brands are allowed to exhibit in Riva del Garda in any massive way. On the other hand, ASSOPROV’s management welcomes the migration of the Chinese to a separate hall, especially because it has been trying to get all its members grouped together in Halls B2 and B3 of the Palafiere compound. About 70 percent of them are grouped in those two halls already.

The latest session of Expo Riva Schuh was relatively successful in terms of the general attendance. Some exhibitors said they worked very well, but others, including some Chinese, complained that many buyers, especially from Germany, were not in a mood to place any large orders for next Fall, let alone reorder for the summer season. Shoe retailers in Germany and in some other countries have simply no cash right now because of a pretty bad Fall 2003 selling season and their inventories are full. Only colorful sneakers and a few other hot items sold well at the fair. Besides, several buyers complained that they could not see yet any new directions in terms of fashion at the Riva fair.

According to its organizers, the edition of Expo Riva Schuh held on Jan. 10-13 attracted 35 percent more registered visitors than last January’s session, with a total of 9,658 from all over the world. They say the new a more professional registration method was not the only explanation for the increase. The fair introduced last June a new registration system based on barcodes to track down each visitors passing through the doors. The organizers sent badges with these barcodes to about 8,000 former visitors, inviting them to pre-register, but apparently many of them left their badges at home, creating long queues at the registration counters.

A record total of 884 exhibitors showcased their collections over 28,000 square meters at the show, whose duration was shortened to 4 days. The next session of Expo Riva Schuh is scheduled for June 19-22.

There was also a small increase in the number of visitors at the simultaneous Fashion Shoe & Leather Goods fair in Bologna, probably because it started this time on a Sunday, overlapping with Expo Riva Schuh. The latest edition of the Bologna show, which is organized jointly by Bolognafiere and ANCI, closed on Jan. 13 in Bologna with a total of 5,370 visitors, which included 800 from outside Italy, a 10 percent increase over the January 2003 session. The 200 exhibitors, which included a few Spanish firms, showed updates on their Spring/Summer 2004 offerings. The next session is scheduled for June 21-24, 2004.