DUSSELDORF — After several consistently downbeat seasons, the momentum returned to the Düsseldorf showrooms and on the fairgrounds during the recent CPD trade show here.

Not only did buyer traffic pick up, but so did the overall mood as 46,000 German and international trade visitors clocked into the three-day event last month, a 5 percent increase compared with February and August 2005.

Manufacturers said German retailers were in visibly better spirits and more open than ever to try new vendors. The city’s approximately 700 showrooms were bustling again, and the CPD fair also witnessed some lively activity. The new trend-oriented Styles & Signatures in Hall 13 was well received, as was last season’s restyled Fashion Gallery featuring what the market here dubs “avant-garde” or “New Age” collections. While these two more high-end halls with their individual looks and atmosphere formed the new heart of CPD, the more mainstream sectors such as Modern Woman in Hall 11 also spruced up their look, thanks to visual merchandising efforts on the part of the exhibitors themselves. Even pure classification areas such as leather and knits looked better trafficked and busier than in many a season.

“The mood is good again, and there’s buying going on again,” commented Stefan Alsbrand-Eickhoff, fashion director of the leading Düsseldorf specialty store Eickhoff. “We’re here to buy and order in relevant quantities,” he said, naming German collections such as Schumacher, Iris von Arnim, Strenesse, Rena Lange, Ella Singh and St.Emile, as well as European designer collections such as Akris, Celine, Lanvin and Burberry, which also have major showrooms in Düsseldorf.

“After a five-day [buying] trip to Milan, we can see that German collections have changed and moved away from ‘glamour’ totally. The Germans are taking on more and more of a role, and we’re happy with what we’re finding here. It’s back to the roots in Düsseldorf, and what’s really important is a commercial, solid business,” Alsbrand-Eickhoff stated.

Berlin specialty store retailer Antonie Setzer was also in a positive state of mind. “Business was sensational last year and I have a very good feeling,” she said. “But I have a special orientation. I’ve found my niche and my customers trust me, which is the be-all and end-all.

This story first appeared in the March 21, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“Schumacher is important, and looks very new and innovative to me,” said Setzer. Always very playfully detailed and a leader in young, decorative styling, Schumacher also has adapted men’s vintage suiting ideas in its otherwise ballerina-inspired repertoire for fall, which Setzer found particularly fetching.

“Their whole look has turned around, and I’m really taken with the classic looks like suits, which have a completely new feeling. But I’m just at the beginning of my order round,” she noted. “What I find missing in Düsseldorf is something really new where I say, ‘Wow,’ though all the leather, leather, leather does look great.”

While the Igedo Co., organizers of CPD, used to be at odds with the city’s independent showrooms, it has now been making a concerted effort to combine the might of the various venues with a shared catalogue as well as wooing some agents back onto the fairgrounds. The agency P4’s first-time participation at CPD at Styles & Signatures was “really successful,” according to sales associate Thomas Goetz. “CPD hasn’t been the most fashionable event, but if they can establish something like this, it can bring people back to the fair. They’ve got the infrastructure, and the show dates are in people’s heads.”

P4, which reps contemporary brands such as Jordi Labanda and Hoss, does all the German trade shows, Goetz said. “And retailers are definitely positive. The general atmosphere is better after the elections, and they’re beginning to feel it in their [retail] turnover. And then there’s the increase in VAT next year, which also is spurring this round of orders,” he said. Value-added tax in Germany is slated to rise to 19 from 16 percent in 2007, a jump that many think will prompt consumers to spend more before prices go up.

“The fair is definitely better,” said 10-year CPD veteran Knud Hjort-Madsen, managing director of the Danish brand Fransa, which showed in the Modern Woman in Hall 11. “From an international view, it’s a pity the German market is so split, but as a company, we had a very good opening day, with more than 40 new customers.”

Because business has been slow for so long in Germany, buyers here tend to be overcautious, “wearing suspenders and a belt at the same time,” he joked. “But after buying just all the big names, they now see that if you’re in fashion, you can’t only buy security. German buyers are becoming more open-minded, and the current Scandinavian focus is an advantage to us, as is the interest in new women’s wear with that little bit of difference.

“We’re not a designer or high-fashion brand,” he explained, “but we have a feminine and casual touch. The German approach is more stiff, but the mood is shifting our way.”

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