Integrated for the first time into a group of six simultaneous fashion fairs, the French shoe show did not go well Jan. 21-24. While a few more foreign buyers visited it than before – especially from Italy, Belgium, Spain, Japan and the U.S. – several companies exhibiting at Mess Around complained that they had seen a major drop in French attendance, particularly on Saturday and Tuesday.

Many indicated that they may not come back for the next early session of the fairs, scheduled to start on June 30, just before Bread & Butter and other shows in Berlin but coinciding with the end-of-season sales in France. Last month's fair coincided with the sales, too. The drop in attendance may have been partly related to the poor economic situation in France and to unseasonably warm weather of the last weeks, but many exhibitors blamed the organizers.

Exhibitors at Mess Around also complained about the higher fees that they had to pay for their stands and the longer duration of the shoe show, which previously lasted for only three days. The nice new white décor used in the shoe show made the products more visible, but it also enhanced the sensation of a generalized emptiness and dissatisfaction.

The show's integration with Who's Next and Première Classe, which cover young fashion and accessories, led Camper and some other former participants to move out of Mess Around, with relatively positive effects. On the other hand, Première Classe was split into four small accessory trade shows scattered in three different halls, adding to the confusion. A low number of buyers visited the handbags section.

In the end, only 260 out of the 500-plus shoe companies that showed their initial collections at one fair or another in Paris stuck to Mess Around, but its organizers said they are working on a new concept, which will be announced shortly. It had better be good, or else the regional shoe shows will continue to gain importance for the French market, along with an agents' show in Paris whose next session is scheduled for March 25-27.

Overall, WSN Developpement, which now owns 50 percent of Mess Around and controls all five of the other fashion fairs including Prêt-à-Porter, has reported a total of 65,682 visits over their four-day duration. The figures are not comparable with those of one year ago because a single badge could be used for the first time at all the fairs.

Foreign visitors represented 32 percent of the total attendance, led by Italians, but the organizers want the ratio to grow to 50 percent within the next two years. They are particularly keen on attracting visitors from outside Europe. This time, there were 2,606 buyers from Asia, 374 from the U.S., 116 from Brazil, 216 from Lebanon, 166 from Israel and 94 from Saudi Arabia.