While it gets ready to launch its first show in Dubai, Expo Riva Schuh has disclosed the results of a survey showing that its big fair on Lake Garda, whose next session is planned for Jan. 12-15, is still on the right track, in spite of infrastructural problems that are being gradually resolved. Together, the two fairs are responding to very clear patterns in the development of the supply and of the demand on a global scale.

Conducted among its exhibitors, the survey showed that 90 percent are in favor of the current dates – mid-January and mid-June – which have always been one of the fair’s strong points, and 56 percent said they had first heard about the fair by word of mouth. Asked to give the fair a mark between 1 and 6, some 81 percent gave it between 4 and 6 - a positive or highly positive appreciation.

A very high percentage of the producers and retailers who attend the show – a full 75 percent – said they were placing orders at the fair, while 44 percent of them said they were using the show to strike deals with suppliers, both old and new.

The new Dubai project is targeting a shoe market estimated at US$1 billion a year in the six states of the Persian Gulf, where modern retailing and foreign imports are growing very fast. Analysts expect a total of 14 million square meters of retail space to be built in the region. In the United Arab Emirates alone, footwear imports have trebled from €56 million in 2000 to €155 million in 2005, and the trend has continued recently. Italian statistics show exports to the UAE up by nearly 50 percent to €41.8 million for the first eight months of this year.

Together, the Middle East, North Africa and the former Soviet Union represented a shoe market of 627 million pairs in 2005, up sharply from 380 million pairs in 2001. At the same time, the Far East has become a more important source of shoe production for the entire world, reinforcing the role that Expo Riva Schuh is playing as the world’s leading fair for value-priced footwear.

Citing SATRA estimates, the show’s organizers point out that the percentage of world shoe consumption produced in the Far East has risen from 67.7 to 83 percent since 1994, with China taking the lion’s share, up from 38.4 to 62 percent of the total. Domestic consumption accounts for around 2 billion of the 9 billion pairs of shoes made in China, but otherwise some 60 percent of global footwear production is now purchased outside the country of origin, making it an increasingly global and mobile market.

In the space of eleven years, global shoe production has grown by 49 percent. It grew by 6 percent in 2005 to a total of 14.5 billion pairs and is expected to increase by another billion by 2010.

The 69th edition of the Expo Riva Schuh show next January will accommodate 1,150 exhibitors spread over 32,000 square meters of net space, or about 1,000 sqm. more than before. Out of these, 99.5 percent are former exhibitors who have reconfirmed their participation, and the waiting list is still long. A small temporary hall will be added alongside the permanent fair zone, while some exhibitors from the Far East will be housed in Arco’s Casino. By 2010 the organizers expect their new permanent exhibition center to be ready for the show to offer a net exhibition space of 40,000 sqm..

A few weeks after Expo Riva Schuh, on Feb. 17-19 next year, the first edition of Expo Riva Schuh Middle East will take place in the Expo Centre at Sharjah, near Dubai. Some 155 manufacturers have booked so far to exhibit in around 2,000 square meters of net exhibition space, but applicants have until the end of the year to sign up.

Expo Riva Schuh Middle East will be the first concrete result of a recent strategic partnership between the organizers of the Riva del Garda fair and ANCI, the powerful Italian shoemakers’ association that organizes MICAM in Milan.

Exhibitors will come from 22 countries and cover a wide range of price points, so the show will be divided into three main halls - one for the Far East, one for exhibitors from various countries, including Brazil and Turkey, and a third hall for European producers, which will have a specific “top style” area for upper end of the market. Leather accessories, mainly bags, belts and small leather goods, will also be shown. The Italian contingent is the largest, accounting for around 20 percent of the total.

As well as local buyers, Sharjah is expected to attract visitors from North Africa and the Russian republics. The Italian organizers of the show have received sizeable funding both from central and local government sources. Seminars and information days will be held for both producers and buyers.