The National Shoe Retailers Association, which groups more than 1,000 independents in the USA, reports a successful launch of its “Independent Footwear Buyers Alliance,” a program that allows members to pool their purchases of foreign merchandise. The NSRA has begun to work with about 20 suppliers from Brazil, Germany, Italy and the Far East, and others may be added to the list at the shoe shows coming up in Düsseldorf, Milan and Madrid this month, where a team of buyers from NSRA’s member companies will scout the stands for interesting novelties.

The buyers are all volunteering their help in this new initiative, intended to round up the nationally sourced ranges offered in the members’ stores with fresh and unique products from abroad that have also good prices and margins, without incurring the cost of traveling to foreign fairs. A product committee composed of 5 members, growing to 7-8 for the next season, gives the general guidelines and helps to make the selections. Because of the strong euro, many of the choices are going for the moment to vendors from Brazil rather than Europe.

Bill Boettge, president of the NSRA, presented the first ranges to NSRA’s members at the WSA show in Las Vegas last month, triggering orders from 137 retailers who run a total of about 700 shops across the USA. Another 34 retailers representing some 100 stores placed orders at a subsequent regional shoe show in Atlanta organized by the Southeastern Shoe Travelers Association. A similar score was expected from another regional shoe fair that took place in Boston a few days ago.

The first orders for the current selling season have been consolidated for shipment in mid-September, with the NSRA handling the bills and the payments. A few retail members continue to work through Ariston Nord West Ring, the German buying group, which started a program for US retailers a few years ago, taking items from its range. ANWR is not involved in NSRA’s new collective program but continues to provide some advice.