Quoting surprising figures from the Statistical German Office and other sources, the country's association of shoe retailers, BDSE, reported at the GDS trade show in Düsseldorf that sales of footwear over the internet fell by 0.6 percent in the first half of 2015, representing 13 percent of the total national shoe market. This includes online sales made by operators of physical stores.

Specialty shoe retailers raised their sales by 1.3 percent, but the total specialty shoe market declined by an estimated 1.5 percent to €4.5 billion for the period. Adding other forms of shoe retailing, the shoe market reached a level of €6.5 billion.

According to Brigitte Wishnewski, the long-time president of BDSE, big pure players in the online space like Zalando and Amazon have been taking market shares away from smaller internet retailers, as part of a general clean-up. According to Schuhkurier, 40 percent of Zalando's sales come from footwear, but this is less than before.

Wishnewski said that the best performers in e-commerce appear to be specialists who offer a wide range of products in a specific niche like, for example, boat shoes. She added that brick-and-mortar retailers can be particularly successful if they make good use of electronic data interchange (EDI), if they integrate e-commerce and if they offer a more emotional shopping experience.

We hear that many customers are now using the internet mainly to look for new products and new retailers that can offer special products and bargains, but prefer to make their final selection in a physical store. The “click and collect” mode is spreading. The rising use of smartphones for shopping is leading more and more retailers to adopt an omni-channel strategy.

Shoe retail sales have been off in Germany as compared to last year in every month except in April and June. They went up by 9 percent in June, thanks to good weather and a good economy. German suppliers raised their domestic sales by 7.9 percent in the first four months of 2015, thanks in part to a higher price mix, according to the German shoe industry federation, HDS/L. Sales of German footwear abroad declined by 2.6 percent during the same period, with declines not only in Russia but also in Italy, France and other European countries.

Ralph Rieker, president of HDS/L, is expecting a small increase in the industry's turnover for the full calendar year, after an overall rise of 5.2 percent in the first four months, as inventories are relatively high. This compares with the 8.5 percent increase to €2.51 billion achieved by the industry in 2014, with 13.5 percent higher sales in Germany partly offset by a drop in sales abroad of 5.1 percent. He called for a quick free trade agreement between the European Union and the U.S., where German shoes have little presence and a strong potential.