The GDS fair in Düsseldorf, still the largest shoe show in the world, will have a completely different layout from September on. Designed to better suit the interests of different types of retailers, it will make a clearer distinction between the suppliers specializing in basic items, which will be grouped together in Halls 3-4-5 on the Western side of the fairgrounds, and all the others, which will occupy all the halls to the East of the tube that connects the North and South entrances.

The big and modern Hall 6, which housed the most elegant and dressy lines, will be closed along with Hall 7, whose fashion show area will be moved to Hall 17 where a new South entrance will be created. On the other hand, new and additional exhibition space will be opened in Halls 15 and 16, which were previously closed, to help accommodate GDS’ growing young lifestyle area.

Hall 6 had become nearly half empty as many exhibitors, especially from Italy, had chosen to show only in the growing MICAM fair in Milan, which is positioning itself more and more as the leading shoe show in the dressy high-end market segment. The conflict in the September dates between the Düsseldorf and Milan shows, which is still unresolved, heightened the exodus lately, although some exhibitors who have kept faithful to the GDS have worked well with buyers from the surrounding region and Northern Europe, especially in the men’s area.

GDS' former top style section will thus be moved from Hall 6 to Hall 9, where many Italian exhibitors have been showing high-end and medium-high collections in the same area. From Hall 9, visitors will be able to walk straight to the “international selection” area, which will span through Halls 10, 11, 12 and 13, with Hall 13 reserved for comfort shoes and Hall 14 to lower-end or unbranded lines. A second East entrance will lead into Hall 13.

The “kid’s corner,” which was previously in Hall 10, will be moved to Hall 16 across the court, sharing the space with exhibitors from the young fashion sector, partly in consideration of the fact that yesterday’s children will be tomorrow’s teenagers. It will be accessible from the new South entrance and lead to Halls 15 and 14, which will also be devoted to casual footwear, with the more hip-hop and creative brands concentrated in a suitable “trashy” environment in Hall 14.

Inspirational “lounges” and other fixtures intended to give more informational contents to the fair will be part of the new layout. Nothing will change in the March show, except for the hiring of a special p.r. agency that already does a good job in promoting CPD, the major fashion fair which is held on the same location a few weeks earlier. In an effort to draw more visitors from neighboring European countries, Messe Düsseldorf is arranging 4-day special all-inclusive travel and accommodation packages at about €450 per person.

Without giving out any details, the management of Messe Düsseldorf says it finally made a few days ago a concrete proposal on the future dates of its September session to ANCI, the Italian shoe industry association that organizes MICAM. The proposal is intended to establish a new cooperation between the two fairs in various areas and to reinforce their “complementary” nature, while solving the outstanding problem of the overlapping dates.

ANCI’s board of directors is expected to take a position on this proposal, after checking the availability of space in the Milan fairgrounds. There is some hope that a final agreement will be reached during the next MICAM show in March, but some of the members of ANCI's board may be thinking more in terms of promoting the Italian industry rather than serving the international market, and that while the Italian industry is not doing so well right now, MICAM is negotiating from a position of growing strength. The next MICAM fair in March will host a total of 1,330 exhibitors, as compared to 1,250 in March of 2002, on 2,000 square meters more in net space, with much of the growth coming from foreign countries such as Spain and Portugal.

Little could be learnt about the GDS' proposal. Sources indicate that Messe Düsseldorf is pushing for a commitment over a 3-year period to keep the two shows within a few days of each other, without any overlap, like during the March session. On the other hand, while many at ANCI would prefer to see the MICAM show take place after the GDS, like in March, Messe Düsseldorf is pushing in the opposite direction, considering that many buyers who cannot afford to purchase the high-end lines presented in Milan would like at least to look at them for fashion guidance and then buy something similar in a lower price bracket in Düsseldorf.


In any case, the conflict of dates will continue next September. The 4-day GDS will start on Thursday, Sept. 16 and the 4-day MICAM will start on Saturday, Sept. 18, again forcing exhibitors and visitors into acrobatics for the development of more prototypes for both fairs and to travel from Düsseldorf to Milan. Their experience on this score from the past two years will come in handy.