After a better than expected month of December at retail in many European countries, the 73rd edition of Expo Riva Schuh closed on Jan. 19 with a 5 percent increase in the total number of visitors to 11,564, including a 7 percent increase to 6,956 for those who came from outside Italy. Italian visitors rose by 1.3 percent. There were 1,135 exhibitors, 773 of them from outside Italy.

The demand for boots of all kinds remained at a high level at the fair. Visitors were treated to better parking lots, although car traffic to and from the fair remains challenging at peak times. While further bureaucratic delays cannot be excluded, the new fairgrounds and the new convention center at Riva del Garda are expected to be completed in 2011.

Bread & Butter attracted about 600 exhibitors in Berlin's former Tempelfhof airport. Although the organizers declined to provide attendance figures, exhibitors indicated that the figures had been stronger than at last July's edition. The atmosphere was particularly buoyant on the first and second days of the fair, but much quieter on the Friday, when many international executives had already left the German capital.

Some parts of the building where the fair takes place were only covered by a roof in the summer, but for the winter edition, organizers built a huge temporary translucent wall all along the building to protect visitors from the freezing cold outside. On the back of robust sales at the end of last year, the atmosphere inside was remarkably upbeat.

The sportswear products shown at the fair pointed to a few unequivocal trends, such as demand for bright colors. Another trend in sports footwear is the demand for leather sneakers or brown shoes with a sneaker design. Converse is strongly benefiting from this trend in Germany, with soaring sales of fur-trimmed leather shoes in the last months. Its sales in the three German-speaking countries reached about €90 million last year, up from €70 million in 2008, on the back of a smart diversification of the line. While sales of the All Star remained stable, the brand's licensee for the German-speaking countries has enjoyed most encouraging growth in apparel and accessories.

Indications are that German visitors represented only about 30 percent of visitors in Berlin in January 2010, which was lower than the rate of Spanish visitors when the fair was held in Barcelona. The rest were nicely spread among British, French, Italian, Dutch, Swiss, Belgian and Austrian visitors, with smaller contingents from a few other countries.

Few Spanish buyers showed up in Berlin. They swamped instead The Brandery, the new young fashion show staged in Barcelona to replace B&B. The organizers reported the presence of 210 brands, 47 percent more than at the first session last summer, and 14,689 visitors, an increase of 47 percent.

A feeling of economic recovery was spotted at the fashion fairs in Florence and Paris. At the Pitti Uomo menswear show in the Italian city, the number of buyers went up by 3 percent to 23,360 from January of last year. Italian attendance rose by 4.2 percent. A small decline was recorded from Germany, but the number of Spanish visitors was up.

In Paris, the young Mess Around shoe fair hosted more than 200 brands, although the dates of the show were earlier than usual. Thanks in part to simultaneous fashion exhibitions such as Who's Next and Première Classe, which also recorded higher attendance, Mess Around registered buyers from more than 5,600 points of sale, or 250 percent more than in March 2009. More than 1,000 buyers came from abroad.

Even though no precise figures could be provided, exhibitors at the India International Leather Fair (IILF) in Chennai earlier this week noted a higher turnout than one year ago, indicating that Indian manufacturers that had been postponing investments because of the international financial crisis are eager to

The fair, which has increasingly become a show of materials, components and machinery for the production of leather shoes, leather garments and leathergoods, celebrated its 25th anniversary with a 13 percent increase in the number of exhibitors as compared to one year ago. They were 434 spread over 8,400 m² of exhibition space, including 172 from abroad.

Besides a stand by Rieker, which is exploring opportunities for the Indian market (more on them later), the show featured new collective exhibitions by French producers of hides and skins and by Thai producers of footwear and components.