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Unified footwear shows a forward step for UK

It’s exhibition time, and again UK footwear companies are faced with a bewildering choice of trade shows at home and abroad. In the UK alone, there is Pure London and Moda, each with their own niches and markets, and priced very differently, plus secondary shows such as the Kensington Shoe Event.

Those companies with an export market have Milan show Micam - still the leader but unable to decide whether it is a showcase for Italian brands or a truly
international affair; German footwear fair GDS - trying to once again become a truly global player; Expo Riva Schuh - an important but small, specialist private label show in Italy, and Magic, the up-and-coming Las Vegas show.

Whatever the venue, three recurring themes emerge. Firstly, why can’t the UK have a unified show to provide a powerful shop window for both domestic and export customers? There are vested interests involved but it is time to revisit this situation.

Secondly, why doesn’t the British Government give the same level of financial support as other European nations that often help their companies locally and
internationally? This is a concern given the potential reduction in funding available from whichever political party is in power after May. The British Footwear Association (BFA) continues to lobby for more direct money to be forthcoming.

Finally, why is it so difficult to find good sales agents here and in export markets? The BFA tries to recommend experienced, well-connected agents to member companies but there is a shortage of suitably qualified and motivated ones in all markets.

There are no easy answers but the BFA will continue debating and taking action in all areas.

Richard Kottler is chief executive of trade body the British Footwear Association

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