GDS and Global Shoes, the two international shoe trade fairs held a little earlier than usual on Sept. 7- 9 in Düsseldorf, attracted just under 24,000 trade visitors this year, down from 28,600 visitors last year. Compared with the GDS fair in March this year, visitor numbers decreased by 4 percent.

Starting with the March show, GDS was held for the first time on weekdays, running from Wednesday through Friday. Supposedly many small independent retailers and members of their staff did not attend because they were working at their stores during the fair. Besides retailers in Germany and neighboring countries were not particularly eager to replenish their inventories after a rather poor summer sales season.

However, the new schedule attracted more international visitors, who usually travel to fairs on weekdays and not on weekends. Half of the trade visitors who came to the fair were guests from abroad. Precise figures could not be obtained, but GDS indicated that visitors came from 77 different countries, with a notable increase in attendees from Eastern European countries such as Poland. This is probably mainly due to the fact that Poland is now the most important export market for German footwear.

International visitors included Charles Clinkard and Sandalwood from the U.K. as well as Carmi, Maniet and Paris Londres from Belgium. Bianca Sapatos, Leonel & Coutinho and Marques Soares arrived from Portugal, Nilsson from Sweden, Up a Tree from Denmark, Printemps from France, Calzados Bravo from Spain, Axa Shoes and GUM from Russia. Famous German retailers coming to the show included Apropos, Burresi, Görtz, Kaufhof, Leiser and Werdich among others.

Retailers claimed in a survey conducted by the GDS that the diversity of brands is most important to them when visiting the fair. Thirty-six percent of all retailers were looking for new suppliers at the fair, and 25 percent were interested in new products to complement their product ranges.

In total, 1,290 exhibitors participated in the two fairs held in Düsseldorf. This figure includes 850 exhibitors at GDS and 440 exhibitors at Global Shoes. The number of exhibitors was up by 9 percent at GDS and up by 7 percent at Global Shoes compared with the same period of the previous year. Exhibitors at GDS arrived from 40 different countries, whereas participating exhibitors at Global Shoes represented 15 different countries.

Established brands such as Geox, Farrutx, Fratelli Rosetti and Salamander returned to the show after a break of several seasons. With all its sales people clad in white at its stand to mark the company's technical bent, Geox showed only its expanded range of Amphibiox shoes, which are targeting for the moment mainly customers in the German-speaking countries.

Additionally, a great number of new labels showed up, such as Desigual, Gas Footwear, Flip Flop and Adidas SLVR. An increasing number of Portuguese exhibitors attended, and a Portuguese star designer, Miguel Vieira, presented his collection for the first time in Germany. The Portuguese Innovation Awards honoring young talents were also presented during the fair.

Compensating for the uncertain economic outlook, the organizers did a good job at lifting the spirit of the fair with a higher number of entertainers and celebrities than before - at its catwalk shows and in collaboration with brands such as Clarks and Romika.