Should I visit MICAM shoe trade show as a start-up?
When you are starting your own shoe brand, footwear industry professionals might advise you to go to MICAM trade show in Milan. If you are considering visiting MICAM Milano, you will need to decide whether this trip will help you move towards a successful launch. This article will help you make this important decision for your start-up shoe brand.
What do I know?
I started visiting MICAM Milano in September 2004 when I worked as a trainee buyer and shoe designer for a multiple shoe retailer in the UK. My next job was Global Product Manager for Dr. Martens footwear. Since 2015 I have been helping people like you to start shoe brands. I visited MICAM Milano just a short time before writing this article so it was fresh in my mind.
Whether you live in the UK, USA, mainland Europe or elsewhere, visiting trade shows can be costly. As a start-up, you need to watch your budget and only invest in worthwhile activities for your future shoe business. Although you don’t have to pay for entry to MICAM trade show, you will need to pay for travel and accommodation.
MICAM Milano is in Milan in Northern Italy and accessible from three airports. Linate is the closest to Milan city but it’s to the East of the city, whereas Rho where the trade show is held is to the North West. Malpensa has more international flights and is easy to get to from MICAM Milano. Bergamo airport is a little further out of the city to the North East and mostly serves Europe.
Milan is well connected by train to other Italian cities and the rest of Europe.
The MICAM trade show usually provides free shuttle coach services from the fair to and from Milan city, Bergamo airport, and Malpensa airport. You can find the timetable on the MICAM website or in the visitor’s guide you pick up at the show. More on these in the essential tips at the end of this article.
The Metro underground train network in Milan is easy to navigate, and you can get the Metro from Milan city to Rho where MICAM Milano is held. Pay for the Metro by tapping your contactless credit/debit card at the ticket barriers, or purchase tickets from the ticket machines (if you need the receipt for bookkeeping).
MICAM Milano is a big trade show for footwear – an important industry in Italy – so hotels and Airbnbs get booked up quickly. Arranging your accommodation in advance is a good idea. This will save you money, and allow you to stay in your preferred location.
Check the MICAM website for discounts on hotels.
It’s a good idea to visit MICAM Milano with a clear purpose. This might be:
Meeting other shoe brand founders – Head to the Emerging Designers area of MICAM and introduce yourself to the friendly brand owners there.
I also recommend joining my membership group for shoe brand founders The Shoe Community and finding a travel partner for the show among the group’s members.
Trend spotting – Visit the Trends and Materials area where you will find future-focused footwear materials and components laid out in themes.
Check out technological innovations which may be relevant to your product and consumer. Watch the trend seminars as part of the timetable of talks. Also look at the shoe styles different brands are selling. Note that some stands are closed and you are unlikely to gain entry if you are not a retail buyer.
Finding a factory – Most exhibitors at MICAM are Italian factories or brands who are there to sell their own branded footwear to retail buyers. You will also find companies from other countries. Some manufacturers may offer white label production – where buyers can choose from their existing products but switch the branding to their own logo – but high MOQs (minimum order quantities) may be required for this service.
You could find a factory willing to make small quantities of your own designs for you just by having a lot of conversations at the show, but I recommend making appointments ahead of time. One way to do this is with the online exhibitor catalogue you will find at MICAM Milano. Search for “Calzaturificio” (Italian for shoe factory) in the catalogue, and contact any which seem to offer the right kind of product.
It may be easier for you as a shoe start-up to engage the services of an Italian sourcing agent, who will help you develop your product and connect with the right factories.
One last tip about finding a shoe factory at MICAM Milano is to be aware that Italian production can be high cost compared to other countries, although the quality tends to be high too.
5. How long do I need?
How long you decide to visit MICAM for will depend on the purpose of your trip and how many appointments you have prearranged. A two day visit would normally be enough, and you may want to tag on an extra day to attend the leather, materials and components trade show Lineapelle if the dates and location align.
6. See Italy
If you are travelling all the way to Milan for the trade show, make sure you see the city. The Duomo and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II are right next door to each other. You may also want to see da Vinci’s The Last Supper and other Milanese sights.
You could also combine your MICAM trip with a visit to beautiful Lake Como, or take a trip to Verona, Venice, Bologna or Florence.
– MICAM Milano trade show is big and can feel a little overwhelming. Grab the free Visitor’s Guide when you arrive and sit down with a coffee to plan your visit.
– If you are planning to make use of the free shuttle buses between the trade show and Milan city or Malpensa or Bergamo airport, get to the bus stop early. These services are popular and once the coach is full, it will leave. The MICAM trade show halls can also be at least a 20 minute walk from the coach stops.
– Remember to schedule meetings with people you want to meet at the MICAM trade show at least a week before you travel. Having these appointments in place will mean you can speak to the people you want to, and will give some shape to your trip.
I hope to see you at MICAM Milano soon!