After numerous inconclusive meetings over the past few months, the executive board of ANCI, the Italian shoe industry association, decided last week to hold the growing MICAM shoe show in Milan on March 19-22 and on Sept. 22-25 next year, deliberately running over the feet of the GDS show in Düsseldorf, which has already announced its own dates. Next March, the German show will start on Thursday and the Milan show two days later on Saturday, just like in September of last year and of 2004. In September 2005, both fairs will start on a Thursday and end on a Sunday, unless the Düsseldorf show changes its own dates again to avoid a full overlap.

ANCI’s bold move is largely dictated by the growing importance of the Milan show in the medium-high and high end of the market and its more elegant/dressy segment, in tune with the design and craftmanship skills of the majority of Italian producers. As an important ANCI executive put it, Italian industry officials feel that they “own” this segment of the market, while the GDS is specializing more and more on casual footwear and on the medium and lower segments of the market, where the production is carried out more and more in Asia.

ANCI’s boldness is partly supported by the first timid signs that the decline in Italy's exports may have finally come to an end. Orders from important foreign markets like the USA, Russia and Japan have been growing over the past few weeks.

The management of Messe Düsseldorf has been trying to find ways to prevent on overlap in the dates of the GDS and MICAM, offering to cooperate with Milan in marketing and other areas, but it has insisted to let the GDS fair take place after MICAM. The reason is that many buyers want to see the newest fashion trends in Milan and then place orders for cheaper lines in Düsseldorf – which is something that ANCI says it cannot accept because it would be contrary to its members’ interests.

ANCI executives had already indicated to Messe Düsseldorf unofficially that they wanted to hold MICAM next March 19-22. The German organizers then announced a new schedule for their Spring GDS show, letting it start on March 31 because of the Easter holidays, but massive complaints from the exhibitors led it last month to move it to a March 17-20 schedule.

Messe Düsseldorf says ANCI's "unilateral" date announcement may be an an unfortunate decision for the export efforts of Italian shoe manufacturers, considering the importance of the GDS as a platform for business at an intercontinental level. ANCI executives indicate that many Italian companies will want to continue to show in Düsseldorf even if the dates are the same. They have already learnt how to have a simultaneous presence at the two fairs. On the other hand, the shift of the elegant segment away from the GDS will probably heighten the pressure on Messe Düsseldorf to hold its big fair earlier.

A significant move in this direction was Messe Düsseldorf’s announcement last month that it will launch a new fair called Pre-GDS from Jan. 30 to Feb. 1. It will coincide with the big CPD Woman-Man fashion fair in Düsseldorf. The organizers hope to attract a total of about 200 companies, offering low-priced modular stands of between 16 and 60 square meters. Messe Düsseldorf made the announcement during the successful Expo Riva Schuh show, a few days after the organizers of the MIDEC fair in Paris announced a similar fair, called Starter by MIDEC, to be held during the Women’s Ready-to-Wear Fair in the French capital next Jan. 28-31.

As for the next MICAM show on Sept. 18-21, it’s going to reach a new record in size with a total of 54,889 square meters of net exhibition space occupied by 1,397 companies. Of those, a record 341 will be foreign, with a particularly strong presence from Spain, France, Portugal and also the USA.