TOKYO — A Wisconsin shoemaker said Tuesday that his decision to crash a Japanese trade show paid off with some orders and an invitation to show his wares again in the summer.
John Stollenwerk, president of Allen-Edmonds Shoe of Port Washington, Wis., had been refused exhibiting space at the Tokyo Shoe Fair but flew to Tokyo anyway with several sample cases.
He wound up being given a booth near the show's main entrance, but he said his company failed to win any orders Monday. The exhibit attracted "a lot of talking but not a lot of action," he said.
On Tuesday, he visited the Japanese government trade offices here to present his case against Japan's 27% tariff on U.S. shoes, compared to U.S. tariffs of 2% to 5% on shoes imported from Japan.
"We talked about lowering the tariff," he said. "I met with guys like me, heads of small bureaus, young. It was very encouraging."
"I was invited back in July, and I jumped at it," he told the Milwaukee Journal in a telephone interview from Tokyo.
When he returned to the show later in the day, he learned that some of his shoes had been ordered. "We felt some interest today in the form of orders," he said. "I feel we were accepted today."
Allen-Edmonds sells about $25 million worth of its hand-fashioned shoes a year, including sales in Italy, West Germany and other nations. Stollenwerk said he has been trying to break into the Japanese market for about five years.
In interviews with Tokyo's English-language newspapers, he said he now thinks he could sell as many as 6,000 pairs of shoes a year in Japan in a few years.
He said he also sees better chances of diminishing the U.S. trade deficit with Japan. "If only we could get more people to do this sort of thing," he said.