Brands reported a sedate but satisfying autumn edition of footwear trade show Micam in Milan, as Brexit uncertainties dominated discussions.
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The 87th edition of Micam took place on 10-13 of February at the Fiera Milano Rho in Milan, and although the aisles in the contemporary hall 2 were busy, the overall mood was quieter than previous seasons. Some brands reported a lower turnout of buyers.
Most were relatively positive, however, and content with the quality of buyers at the show. Many noted that Micam remains the key footwear trade show in Europe and were focusing on picking up new European customers, as well as seeing familiar UK faces.
Buyers were spotted from Mongolia, Thailand, the US and Dubai. The Japanese contingent remained notable, although several brands reported that they were increasingly shifting their focus to Pitti Uomo, because of its reputation for being fashion-forward and tailoring expertise.
Attendees at international show Micam were keen to express their frustrations about Brexit. Several brands questioned how they were supposed to prepare when “even the prime minister doesn’t know what’s going to happen”. The ongoing lack of clarity was universally condemned.
For brands, international economic uncertainties and the glum state of the British high street were a key concern. However, some reported that buyers were seeking more playful and dramatic styles, as shoppers look to distract themselves from challenging times.
In terms of trends, sustainability was a focus, particularly for emerging designers. Vegan styles, recycled fabrics and ethical-production models were in evidence in collections.
Elsewhere, trends were dominated once again by chunky-soled trainers, which were an ingredient in a vast number of collections in the contemporary halls. Heavy-duty hiking boots in an array of eye-catching colours also emerged as a popular style for autumn 19.
Alongside these casual trends, there was also a slight shift towards classic, formal “dress shoes” at the premium and luxury end of the market. The trend was led by Japanese buyers, who have been turning away from casual styles towards classic brogue silhouettes and colours.
Despite ongoing uncertainties and market shifts, Micam remains an integral show for the footwear industry, continuing to put a steady foot forward.
THE MOOD OF MICAM
Kat Maconie, founder, Kat Maconie
We see all our normal customers at Micam, and it is a good show for us. We had a good morning on day one, and we see our Middle Eastern, Italian and international buyers here. We also see a lot of new customers at the show.
Graham Anderson, sales director at Skape, representing Irregular Choice
So far the show has been good. We’ve seen Italian and German clients here, and a mix of new and established clients. This season is much busier than spring 19 was for us.
The whole concept of trade shows now feels a bit last century, but the question would be what we’d all do as a better idea – especially in the UK, trade shows feel dated.
We’re finding that people are really looking for inspiration in their buying – ways to break the mould. What they were doing wasn’t working and there is a lot of nervousness in the market.
Richard Parker, sales manager, UK and Ireland, Skechers
The show has been very good so far on day one. Micam is getting busier and busier for us every season, and we are seeing more and more UK buyers each season. The UK people used to give it a miss, but now they are back and looking for something new from brands that have moved on since they last saw them.
This is always a great show for us: the Sunday is driven by independents, and then Monday and Tuesday are when the UK buyers come to see us.
Our accounts are all feeling pretty buoyant. We cover so many bases as a brand, we are almost recession proof. The 1990s revival has been really good for us in recent seasons, but the comfort part of the business is also very strong.
Christian Staunstrup, sales manager, Egos Copenhagen
We also show at Top Drawer in London and in Frankfurt, and we’re here to launch a new range of running trainers to the European market. It has been quiet on the first day, so we are hoping for a busier end to the show. We’ve seen Japanese and American buyers, but are mainly here for the European market.
We have a varied distribution for the brand (including at garden centres), so we are seeing a mix of retailers – independents and department stores – here. It may be a tough market for retailers at the moment, and we do see a lot of complaining, but we are taking lots of orders still and the brand is doing well.
Alan Barker, managing director, Barker
The first day at Micam was good. We saw a lot of new customers, including buyers from Mongolia and Russia – countries we haven’t seen much from in recent years. There is more money in those regions now. Our business is doing very well in Japan, but we tend to see those customers at Pitti rather than here.
There is a lot of uncertainty still around Brexit, we just need to get a deal done now to get some clarity.
Jessica Azagury, studio manager, Chelsea Paris
This is our second time at Micam and it has been non-stop busy. We have also showed in Paris in the past, and this is much busier. There are a lot more buyers here, and it is a more exciting show. As a footwear brand, if we are going to do any trade show, it has to be this one.
We’ve seen a lot of our main customers here, as well as buyers from across Europe and Thailand. Our brand does a lot of sandals, and the Thai buyers like to buy those despite it being the autumn 19 season for the European buyers.
Chris Nightingale, brand manager, Victoria Shoes
We’ve come to Micam because it’s a really important time for the brand – we’re essentially relaunching in the UK and it is important for us to be here, so buyers can see the new direction for the brand.
The range uses sustainable and recycled materials, which is a message a lot of customers are looking for. The market is difficult, but at the same time, there is a lot of really good product out there – that’s what buyers are looking for. There has never been a worse time to just be “good”. You have to have excellent product and a story that customers want to hear.
Footfall is down, and buyers know they need to give customers a reason to come into their stores. You need that “wow” piece. Brexit is a challenge, but business has to go on because, at the moment, no one knows what the outcome is going to be.”
Lucy Whittaker, director of retail and ecommerce, French Sole
It’s been a good show for us. The reaction to the collection has been good and we’ve also recently rebranded, which has gone down well with buyers.
We come to Micam because it’s the biggest footwear show and it’s a great opportunity to see lots of customers, particularly international buyers. We have a showroom in London, so lots of the UK independents will come and see us there.
When it comes to Brexit, the biggest problem has been the currency fluctuations, especially when buying in euros. However, we’ve now moved some of our production to Northampton, which should act a bit of a buffer in the future.
Jonathan Church, joint managing director, Joseph Cheaney
It’s been a steady show, although perhaps not quite as buoyant as previous seasons. We’ve been coming to Micam since 2010 – we always do this show. Our business in the UK and the Japan is still strong, although the UK market is much harder than it was.
We’ve been opening our own stores and own retail does help in tougher times. UK buyers are more cautious and tend to play it safely safer in tougher times. In terms of trends, we’re seeing a return to smarter shoes.”
Paul Harris, sales director, GH Warner
The show has been all right for us so far, we had a busy morning on the first day and a steady afternoon. We don’t tend to see the Brits here at Micam, but we saw plenty of Italians and tend to see lots of Irish buyers. There have also been visitors from France, Spain and Arabic countries, so it is good for international business and we do write orders with smaller retailers at the show. The bigger guys will come and have a look and then follow up over the next few weeks.
We’d be disappointed if we didn’t “scratch the pad” at this show. There’s no doubt that market is tough, no matter where you’re from – UK, French and Italian buyers are all saying the same thing. In the UK, there’s a perfect storm. We’ve got issues with rent, customers are much more concerned about their personal circumstances financially and there’s uncertainty over Brexit. I had meetings in Holland last week and everyone was asking about Brexit, but what can we tell them when the prime minister doesn’t know?