Micam was back in action this week in Milan, and both buyers and vendors at the event said product differentiation is critical when it comes to standing out in the constantly shifting market.
More than 1,700 brands exhibited at the bi-annual international trade show, which wrapped on Wednesday after four days at Rho Fiera.
Peter Hanig, president of Chicago-based Hanig’s Footwear, said that while the show is a “bit smaller” compared with years past, it continues to be a key stop on the buying circuit.
Ballet flats and “enormous quantities of sandals” were everywhere on the show floor this season, but Hanig made sure to seek out vendors that had a unique proposition. “I found a small factory that wasn’t looking like everyone else’s sandals,” he said. “I can’t just look like I’m copying the department stores. So I always [consider]: ‘What are brands doing differently?’”
Among his tried-and-true labels is Italian heritage brand Thierry Rabotin. “We love the product, the people and it’s been a wonderful relationship,” Hanig said. Spanish label Wonders — which was part of a large contingent of more than 100 made-in-Spain brands exhibiting at the show — is also at the top of the retailer’s list each season.
Hanig also spends some of his time at the event looking for fresh ideas and scouring new brands. “I walk every hall and try to look at every booth,” the retailer said.
Robert Schwartz, president and CEO of New York-based Eneslow Pedorthic Enterprises Inc., said that while inflation and price increases were still a factor in buying decisions this season, the “value equation” is intact given the high quality of European product.
Overall, the storeowner acknowledged that there are fewer Americans attending the show — a sign of decreased market share for Italian and European vendors. On the bright side, he believes that attending gives him an edge. “Meeting with vendors’ senior management is one of the reasons we’re here,” he said.
Salina Ferretti, CEO at Falc SpA — which owns Naturino, Flower Mountain, Voile Blance and other labels — said that Micam continues to attract the best buyers from around the world, despite a wave of retail consolidation that has impacted attendance overall. “It’s the only real international trade show,” Ferretti said.
As Falc continues to build its U.S. business, Ferretti offered up some advice for other Italian players looking to win over stateside customers.
“In the U.S., you have to bring a project that’s exciting, something that people don’t already have,” she said.
Creating an exciting atmosphere at the show was top of mind for Micam Milano president Giovanna Ceolini, who lauded the combination of established brands and emerging players, as well as an increased focus on sustainability and retail innovation. Despite some challenges in the Italian export market, “we have to put on a good show,” she said.