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Footwear kicks back against downturn

Richard Kottler

Among the debris of the global economic downturn, the experience of British companies at the recent Micam, GDS and Magic footwear trade shows was exceptional.

Among the debris of the global economic downturn, the experience of British companies at the recent Micam, GDS and Magic footwear trade shows was exceptional. There was a sense of (unexpected) optimism, with most UK exhibitors reporting a good level of bookings and success in finding agents or distributors. The British Footwear Association (BFA) worked with event organisers to create interesting areas, such as the English Garden at Magic, to generate buyer and media activity.

If these shows are barometers of export business, then UK footwear firms should have a good spring 12. I’m sure economists can explain why, with so many European nations and the US flatlining, export business from Italy, Spain, Portugal and the UK is booming.

There’s no doubt that international buyers are keen to find interesting, reliable British brands and these brands have responded by turning up to key shows in large numbers. The BFA was asked many times for the names of UK factories that could make premium products – and this interest was often fuelled by demand from the Far East.

There are two other strands of optimism in the now well-documented enthusiasm for the ‘Made in Britain’ movement. First, one of the biggest store names on the high street is organising a buyers’ showcase for selected UK footwear manufacturers, having already featured several in their stores. Second, in the past year, three footwear factories have opened or are about to, and several of the existing units have expanded capacity.

The BFA continues to encourage and support these developments by facilitating meetings between producers and buyers and via our industry-led training. This will be linked with a programme of exporting initiatives to maintain the momentum.

  • Richard Kottler is chief executive of the British Footwear Association

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