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30% More Buyers Attended Mexico Footwear Fair and These Trends Caught Their Eye

MEXICO CITY – Mexican footwear fair Sapica saw a 30 percent jump in buyers attending its latest edition in the country’s shoe-manufacturing hub, Leon, earlier this month.

The three-day event saw U.S. executives return after a notable absence at the October event, when the pandemic forced organizers to launch a digital-only affair. Overall, 1,109 buyers attended Leon’s Poliforum convention center, up from 862 last year. International buyers totaled 48, up from the 24 that were originally expected, boosting business, according to organizers.

While Sapica would not reveal how many U.S. buyers attended the fair, they noted a presence from Spain, Brazil, Italy, Guatemala, El Salvador, Ecuador, Honduras and Panama.

The event drew 215 exhibitors to the fair’s 83rd edition and saw an increase in sourcing contracts, a Sapica spokesman said without revealing final figures.

Key suppliers, including Dogi, San Miguel Shoes, Vicenza, Cuadra, Calzado Kinder and Brantano—which source for the likes of Steve Madden, Levi’s and Dockers—focused on promoting Mexico’s leather boots and leather footwear manufacturing strengths to win purchasers’ wallets.

In this arena, Cuadra, Caborca and Rio Grande showcased their new environmentally friendly lines, including skins that are made from natural resins or employing fewer tannery chemicals such as chrome to provide a ‘white finish,’ said Javier Pina, who leads industry lobby Ciceg’s Innovation and Design unit, adding that new, waterproof boots were also spotlighted.

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“There was a big return to leather, especially Western boots, which carried a big weight in the fair,” he said, adding that Thursday Boots and Frye are top U.S. clients for these products. Athleisure, notably comfort-driven shoes made from knitwear and ergonomic soles was also a highlight, according to Pina. To boost traffic, the fair launched the “Knowledge Pavilion” to hold industry conferences and scheduled several runway shows from emerging footwear designers including Karla Diaz, Itzel Isidro and Eileen Solis, who belong to Mexican fashion school Jannette Klein.

Sapica took place amid turbulent times for footwear exporters, which saw foreign shipments decline sharply last year, Pina conceded, though he declined to provide an exact percentage. Nevertheless, the drop deepened industry losses. In 2019, exports fell 16 percent to $502 million, according to Ciceg.

Mexico sent 85 percent of that cargo to its main market the U.S., followed by Guatemala, Singapore and Panama. Meanwhile, low-cost imports from the likes of China, Vietnam and Indonesia into the United States continued to roil local purveyors, rising 4.8 percent to $1.2 billion in 2019.

Pina was optimistic about 2021, however, noting that demand has begun to pick up as U.S. retail sales begin strengthening. “We could see a big recovery this year after a very significant decline in 2020,” he concluded.