With the new layout of the halls tickling the curiosity of all the participants, the mammoth GDS fair is opening in Düsseldorf tomorrow with a total of 1,649 exhibitors from 53 countries, or about 10 percent more than a year ago, although a few important players in the market such as Germany’s Hamm Group and Wolverine World Wide have chosen this time to show their Tommy Hilfiger and Merrell collections elsewhere in the city. Most of the brands are still waiting to see the traffic at their stands in the new surroundings to decide on their future involvement in the world’s largest and most universal shoe show.

Out of the 300 new exhibitors at the GDS, about half comes from Europe and the other half from Brazil, Mexico and Asia. The biggest national contingent at the fair will be the Chinese one, in line with the country’s growing dominance of the world market. With European quotas on Chinese footwear being gradually lifted, a total of 377 Chinese firms will exhibit at the fair, but the organizers stress that they have been carefully selected.

Another strong contingent is coming from Brazil, where the government has been supporting many new initiatives to help diversify the country’s shoe exports. For example, it invited many foreign buyers at its annual shoe show in Francal a few weeks ago. The efforts of Brazilian producers, also in terms of creativity, are beginning to pay off. Preliminary figures show that the country’s shoe exports grew by 17 percent in the first eight months of this year to the equivalent of $1.55 billion. The USA remains the biggest client, with sales of $599.4 million, but the export flow to that country rose by only 2 percent. Instead, exports to Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain have grown rapidly from a relatively small base.

Italian exhibitors still form the largest European contingent at the GDS with a total of 248 companies – down from 378 a year ago and 526 two years ago, largely because of the persistent clash of dates with the growing MICAM fair in Milan and its increasing importance in the high-end elegant fashion segment. The conflict of dates also led the Rexor buying group to stop staging its usual “Italian Day” at the end of the GDS, even before its parent company, Garant Schuh + Mode, went public with its own financial problems. The number of exhibitors from Spain has declined to 102 from 176 a year ago. There are 189 companies from Germany, 71 from Holland, 50 from Turkey and 48 from Portugal.

As for MICAM, the number of exhibitors at the show starting next Saturday is up by 7.5 percent to a total of 1,397. The number of foreign companies has risen by 47.6 percent to 341, with strong participation from Spain, France, Portugal, the UK and the USA. The fair will occupy this time a net area of 54,889 square meters between Halls 12 and 17.