After last year’s economic ups and downs the barometer for con-sumer spending is now set to rise again in 2005. Data for December 2004 and initial analyses for FY 2005 indicate that consumers have started spending more money in contrast to last year and that they are now viewing their own financial situation in a more favourable light. In 2003 total sales in German footwear retailing stood at approximately 8.7 billion euros making Germany one of the top export destinations.

Providing an exhaustive overview of shoe ranges from throughout the world, GDS gives retailers unrivalled opportunities to assemble fast-moving ranges. Retailers must aim to raise consumer awareness with attractive, versatile and ever new ranges in order to fire up their lust for shoe shopping. GDS has long since promoted fashion pluralism, allowing especially the smaller and medium-sized specialist shoe retailers to stand out from the competition. And PRE-GDS was another important tool for the placing of orders so as to lure end users into the stores with fresh ideas time and again.

At the previous GDS, changes in order behaviour could already be detected. Visitors came to the trade fair in search of something new while dialogue with existing providers was intensified even further. The latest study by HDS, the Confederation of German Shoe Manufacturers, showed that imports from China as well as Brazil, Romania, India and Macau rose significantly in the first six months of 2004 compared with the same period in 2003. The United Kingdom managed to nearly triple its exports (14,412,000 pairs) to Germany.

Both exhibitors and visitors to GDS from March 17-20, 2005, can expect to find opportunities for business. Almost 1,500 exhibitors from 50 nations are expected in Düsseldorf, reflecting a global shoe market which is undergoing profound changes but also offering new opportunities and growth potential. The ‘winner’ in this game is Asia while Europe is now facing significant losses.

China not only ranks first in exports but also in terms of manufacturing; within as little as one decade the awakening industrial giant has shown an almost 30% growth. This corresponds to total sales of 13 billion shoes. Labels such as Belle Group, Mecot Footwear and Getwell are gaining increasing importance.

Italy is currently being ousted from key export markets. Over the first six months of 2004 Italian footwear output was down by a further 4.9% (to 144 million pairs). Against the previous decade this means a record low for the former stronghold of the European shoe industry. While exports dropped by 4.3% over the first six months imports posted a 21% increase (of which China accounted for 42%). This development can primarily be attributed to the drop in sales in Germany, (minus 4.5%), the United Kingdom (minus 13.8%), Russia (minus 18.8%), Japan (minus 14.4%) and the USA (minus 10.7%). This trend is representative of the entire European footwear market. An analysis of the footwear industry in 15 EU countries shows that in 2003 the total output was down to 710.5 million pairs equalling an 11.3% decrease.

Spain, ranking 6th in the exporters’ listing, showed a 3.5% drop to 137 million pairs in 2002. Like Germany, France registers high consumption volumes – but here, too, exports went down by 2% (to 47.2 million pairs) in 2003.

Summing up the trends for the first six months of 2004 it can be said that the developments in the European shoe industry in 2003 have continued in the current year. Italy is the only European shoe manufacturer still ranking among the global top 10, something also reflected by the exhibitor profile at GDS. Italy accounts for the largest European contingent of exhibitors.

Export rankings now feature new countries like Brazil and Turkey, countries with home-grown brands, high fashion competence and trade knowledge. Well known in Brazil and known as the stylist for the US-made television programme ‘Sex and the City’, Mauricio Medeiros is now also gaining worldwide renown thanks to GDS. Luiza Barcelos and the kids’ label Kidy are also developing an independent brand. The same is happening with brands in Turkey where Balans, Poletto and Devran are now successfully competing for their place in the brand ranking.

Shoe output worldwide is still rising (from 9.99 billion pairs in 1995 to 12.9 billion in 2003). By 2010 total global output is forecast to reach 15 billion pairs. Since 1995 European production has dropped by 19% (to 1.158 billion pairs in 2003) while over the same period Asian output has grown by 48% (to 9.85 billion pairs in 2003). This means that Asia currently accounts for 76% of global shoe productions – and the figures are rising.

For the EU this translates into strong import growth – by 16.8% to 1.29 billion pairs in 2003. At the same time exports to third (non-EU) countries were down by 13.5% to 190.8 million pairs. As a result, the European shoe manufacturing industry is affected by serious structural changes and is currently suffering painful declines in output and exports.

This, therefore, makes it all the more important to have an exhibi-tion platform like GDS that covers the entire business spectrum, grants access to all markets and allows each country to successfully participate in international competition.

All activities for GDS can also be found on the Internet at []