By  on February 20, 2002

DUSSELDORF -- Last year was a rough one for the German women's wear industry, and according to manufacturers and retailers at the recent CPD trade show here, 2002 isn't going to be any better.

Rising unemployment and inflation, political uncertainty in the run-up to national elections, and what many say are psychological barriers to the Euro, have combined to dampen consumer confidence in the country.

Hubert Weidemann, president of the German women's wear association, said inventories were "out of control," and added that "we have to accept that order activity will be pushed aside."

Nevertheless, the mood wasn't all doom and gloom at the mega fair, which closed Feb. 5. As Sebastian Holzshuh, director of product, marketing and distribution for the German sportswear company Cinque, said: "The mood of the retailers is astonishingly positive, for when you read the figures, there's no reason to celebrate. But the spirit is encouraging, though no one expects good results for spring. We all hope the insecurity relating to the euro diminishes and that things begin to get better by fall."

A member of the beleaguered Wunsche Group, Cinque's financial standing was secured on the eve of the show by the takeover of Wunsche by MPC Holding.

"It's great to have [the problems] behind us," Holzschuh said. "We can already see the difference in how suppliers react, and we've clearly acquired new customers at the show, which was not the case at the last fairs."

Jurgen Richter, a member of the Escada board of management with responsibility for the Laurel business, said, "The mood at the fair is always better than it is in reality. [The retailers] all want to get out of the stores and the mess they're in. But the situation hasn't changed. January was horrible at retail at all levels. Yet the moment the season is over, it's all old merchandise and the stores know they have to buy. What's more of a problem is whether the retailer will get enough money from the bank to pay for the merchandise."

As CPD is primarily an information-gathering rather than an order-writing event, its hard to get a handle on how the year is panning out. But so far the numbers for Laurel are good, he said.

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