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Mood at WSA lacklustre

The mood at WSA, the world's largest footwear fair in Las Vegas, was a sober one this season, lacking atmosphere and pace.

Visitor numbers at the fair feel sluggish, a trend which began at the show's last edition due to a date clash when WSA ran three weeks later than usual.

This season however visitors are clearly feeling the widespread US economic crisis and this, along with the proximity of New York footwear show FFANY which takes place August 6-8, has hit the show.

Owner of LA retail hotspot Kitson, Fraser Ross, added: "Numbers seem to be down and FFANY is getting business. It's not so good."

Despite the US recession biting, some were still optimistic, with Brit-brand Blowfish having a busy stand throughout the day yesterday, and Skechers grabbing the lion's share of the scant visitors.

Skechers president Michael Greenberg said of the US economic climate: "What is happening in the UK market mirrors the USA." He added optimistically: "One thing I know is that the consumer is always going to buy footwear."

Trend-wise the American market has not served up anything groundbreaking, but the usual smattering of brands, including Report Signature, have kept the fashion stakes high.

From neon brights to blue hues, bronze and ethnic prints and cork soles, the spring 09 collections have offered a wide selection of looks. Gladiator sandals and boho-inspired styles are still key with fringing here to stay for another season. Moccasins and flat ballet pumps were still visible but sky-high stock-on platforms are the order of the day with wedges also strong, while tech fabric and satin has made a showing for spring.

WSA chief operating officer Diane Stone: "Although the final count isn't done yet, the numbers appear to suggest that actually this show will be a bit ahead of February, which is absolutely fabulous in this economic climate.

"The show is just not an event where you see huge traffic in aisles. The show is enormous, and spread across an extremely large campus. It's very appointment driven, we also have many brands in a showroom setting and many others have closed booths. So looking and judging the show by its aisle traffic is really misleading.

"I'm hearing from exhibitors who are having a fantastic show, they're re-booking for February, asking for more space and planning to bring more brands next time. The facts are that 86% of A-tier retailers pre-registered for the show and came. For sure, there may well be a case where some retailers are cutting back on travel costs by sending smaller teams - but that's only to be expected in such tough times."

To read full WSA coverage see next week's Drapers.

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