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A stormy start to Sole Fashion

Clashing shows and stormy weather hit footfall at the debut edition of Sole Fashion, but the new show was a welcome shake-up of the trade show calendar.

Adverse weather and a clash with Micam did not dampen the mood at the first edition of UK footwear trade show Sole Fashion on 16-17 February, despite a low turnout.

Showing in the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, it clashed with the long-standing Micam exhibition in Milan (16-19 February), which organisers admitted was one of its biggest challenges.

Rival Midlands trade show Moda shifted its autumn 20 edition back a week to 23-25 February after Micam unveiled its dates, but Sole Fashion was unable to change.

The new show was also hit by Storm Dennis, and nearby flooding and high winds were a hot topic among exhibitors.

However, although it was quiet in the aisles, many of the exhibitors Drapers spoke to were upbeat and optimistic about the future of the new show.

Chris Gorrod, managing director at Rieker, said: “There’s a bit of a mess happening at the minute [in the footwear show calendar because of Moda, Sole and Micam falling so close together] and though it’s early, I’m hopeful this show could be quite good.”

Another exhibitor said: “We’ve had a few people pull out because of the weather, but we are hopeful of what the show could become. Footfall is currently low, but business is steady.”

Last year, Moda’s menswear section was relocated to Pure London, sparking concern among footwear exhibitors about the impact on footfall.

“It was the right time to start something new,” said Sole Fashion organiser Penny Robinson, who was formerly event director for Moda.

“We’ve been realistic with expectations, but there is a will for a new show. The most unfortunate thing was Micam choosing the same dates [as Sole Fashion]. We tried everything to shift ours.”

On turnout to the show, she added: “The weather has been challenging and the season has been challenging, but there is business being done and this is just the start of the journey.”

Sole Fashion welcomed 38 brands, such as Rieker, Bugatti and Josef Seibel. Footwear distributor Gardiners Bros showed seven brands, including Skechers.

The Ricoh Arena was praised by attendees, who liked that parking was right outside the entrance to the show. Its two-day format was also welcomed by exhibitors, as it kept the costs low.

Robinson said there were big plans for Sole Fashion moving forward, including “hopefully” featuring some womenswear in the next edition, which will take place on 9-10 August.


Mood of the show

Kenny Stirling, account manager, Bugatti 

It has been extremely quiet. I spoke to all our customers before we came and there weren’t many who were making the trip. We’ve only planned two appointments. At Moda we would normally do around 50 orders, but I’m not expecting more than five here. But we needed a change after last season. We’re normally at Micam as well, but we pulled our stand because of coronavirus. It’s going to affect our selling season, but it’s the best thing to do. It remains to be seen if we’ll come back to Sole Fashion.


Andrew Slater, director, Manchester footwear retailer Andrew Graham Shoes

This show has potential. It’s pretty new and it will only get better. I think the weather has had an impact on attendance this week and we would prefer it if there were more brands. But it’ll be interesting to see the next edition and if there are some brands that jump from Moda – I suspect there will be. I hope it takes off. We’ve come from Manchester and it was fine for us to get here, but there was a possibility of us not making the trip because of the weather. I think some Scottish buyers haven’t been able to come because of it.


Michael James, managing director, footwear accessories supplier Euroleathers 

It’s going all right so far. Quiet, but we didn’t have many expectations for the show as it’s new. We want to support it and for it to do well. It’s not going to happen quickly, but [a] new show was needed. I’m pretty confident it’s going to grow. The location is also good for me – I’m just a 25-minute drive away.


Julie Harris, managing director, footwear independent Neat Feet in Leicestershire

The show has been good. It’s not as hectic as shows sometimes are, which has been great for us – it’s much easier for us to get around. The location is good; we’ve come from Leicestershire so it only took us 50 minutes to get here. We chose to come to here this season because all of our main suppliers are here. We’re in a vale so there was some flooding, but we managed to get here.


Readers' comments (2)

  • Good to see a new show shaking up the old order. The industry should give it a chance. Good luck to the new show team.

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  • It would be amazing to get a UK shoe show that was as great as the old Novotel show representing both ExFactory and branded shoes i.e combining exhibitors from Kensington Shoe Show with the more mainstream suppliers but making it a sensible price option for the exhibitors. The main reason they don’t show is the cost of the show and then lack of footfall because there isn’t enough content for the buyers .

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