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ispo Show Fills Halls, Satisfies Attendees and Exhibitors

So, you really want BIG at a trade show? You want awesome booths, packed halls, and truly international attendance and exhibition? You really want, yes, super? Welcome to ispo, the international trade show for sporting goods, equipment and apparel in Munich, Germany, version Winter 2002.

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So, you really want BIG at a trade show? You want awesome booths, packed halls, and truly international attendance and exhibition? You really want, yes, super? Welcome to ispo, the international trade show for sporting goods, equipment and apparel in Munich, Germany, version Winter 2002.

OK, hyperbole aside, SNEWS® must add that not all segments of the show are necessarily spectacular and stupendous (see our story in Fitness from the week of Jan. 29-Feb. 4 to read about one depressing category). But a few glitches and bumps aside, this is really the show that sets the standard around the world.

Concluding its winter run last week, ispo released numbers on the last day reporting 1,600 exhibitors from 46 countries, taking up some 160,000 square meters (more than 1.72 million square feet) in 15 halls the size and grandeur of airplane hangers. Of course, this size of the spread is why you see people on scooters maneuvering the distance between halls — rumor has it that the fairgrounds, which is the site of Munich’s former airport, are about a mile from one end to the other including entry halls.

“The ispo brings the whole world of sports together here in Munich,” said Neil Pryde, the man beyond a phalanx of successful companies including Carhina, FLOW, and other waterwear and equipment companies. “Here is where it happens.”

And so it does happen, particularly in Outdoor, Winter sports, Skateboarding, and in other so-called “extreme” sports. Those are the halls that pulsed with non-stop shows, celebrities, music, crowds, happy hours, and general buzz that kept the energy high for most of four days.

We do have to say most of four days, not all of four days. For only the second time, the show opened on a Saturday and ran through Tuesday, a decision made partly to allow non-German attendees to take advantage of lower Saturday-night-stay airfares and to not have to leave their businesses on so many weekdays, while still getting to the show. By mid-morning Saturday, perched in an office high above one of the ski show floor, SNEWS® had to check a clock and wonder whether the show had actually opened yet since the halls were still so deserted. We were told that the show would normally be pretty quiet Saturday morning — as attendees travel into town or area retailers stick around their shops for the morning — but that it would start bustling by the afternoon. That bustle never materialized. But the unofficial Munich show attendance barometer — how close your nose is to someone’s back in the subway getting to the fairgrounds — had jumped upward Sunday and Monday. Traffic by Tuesday noon, however, trickled back down to a dribble as some exhibitors even started to dismantle and pack up by early afternoon.

“It’s been a good show,” Bernd Wodarz, sales manager for Mammut, told SNEWS®, “but much quieter than before. But it’s still been high-end. The important clients were here.”

According to ispo statistics — released promptly on Tuesday afternoon complete with comparisons a year earlier — showed that overall attendance had dropped a little. Still, international attendance had risen slightly, leaving one to infer that the drop had come mostly from inside Germany where some retailers — in a scenario similar to the United States — told SNEWS® they found they didn’t have to travel to a show but could rely on private showings and small regional presentations. Of course, it didn’t help that there was a slight recession, plus the Alps were practically without snow, leaving winter sport shops already overloaded and not exactly looking for more stuff to sell.

“There haven’t been many new things to see,” said Dieter Bosbach, managing owner of specialty climbing and backpacking outdoor shop in Essen called Albatross. Bosbach had come to the show for the first time in a decade.

Nevertheless, many exhibitors stressed to SNEWS® the vitality of the show, especially for meeting with international dealers and reps, which includes those even from neighboring European countries. That importance could be the reason for the rise in international numbers.

ispo data released showed that of slightly more than 50,000 attendees, some 26,000 (or about 55 percent) came from outside Germany representing 98 countries. That compares to last winter show’s nearly 53,000 attendees, of which 52 percent came from outside Germany.

Peter Schoeffel, who heads up the Schoeffel brand based in Germany, told SNEWS® he would describe the show in “one sentence: It’s been a good show — without any buts.”

Nike ACG’s Massimo Giunco, senior corporate communications manager for Europe, Middle East, and Africa, grinned broadly on the first day of the show — Nike’s much bally-hoed return to ispo — and told SNEWS®: “We are very satisfied with the traffic.” Of course, everyone it seemed had to drop into the ACG booth, which didn’t leave wanting. Even the all-comers happy hour with flowing beer keg every day at show’s end meant steady drop-by traffic.

Mark Hrubant, international sales director for California-based Mountain Hardwear, had his feet up in a neighboring booth on Tuesday afternoon, taking a breather from what had apparently been a very busy show — “Waaaaaaay better than expected,” he told SNEWS® (How many aaaaa’s are there in that word, Mark?)

Of course, with fitness being a rather dreary collection of odds n’ ends — aside from fortress booths by Kettler and Icon, and moderate ones from the likes of Horizon and Schwinn — that area stuck in the back didn’t draw loads of traffic. On Monday afternoon, as the rest of the show was pumping, one could have set up a full-scale bowling match in the aisles of fitness and disturbed hardly a soul. That showing is in contrast to the fact that fitness is “growing here very strongly,” as Horizon’s managing director Ulfert Boehme pointed out to SNEWS®.

Different, too, was the ispo organization of the gargantuan show in halls to give it a feeling of a series of smaller and more intimate trade shows, a concept that left the trade generally satisfied. This way, one segment didn’t compete with another unrelated segment for signage or stage time. The winners of the DuPont BrandNew awards were also given their own special area, complete with bar and open seating where coffee, water, juices, and beer were available for the asking. Those award winners included two U.S.-based companies — Isis, which makes outdoor clothing for women, and Thrill Sled, a high-tech sled with steering, brakes and suspension for both snow and mountain terrain (Stay tuned for a special story on the BrandNew awards in coming days.)

But the hoopla over the small companies thrust into the spotlight by winning a BrandNew award didn’t stop with a small booth. The opening night gala party — called “ispo Charity Night” — introduced each award winner and the company’s product — but not before a long and glamorous fashion show of some rather outrageous togs designed no-holds-barred by students of a prestigious high-fashion school — ESM OD International. Some sat mesmerized by the fanciful creations, while others began to wiggle in their seats. Said one attendee about the fashions: “This is like a Star Wars set gone bad.” After the show came a dinner of filet of reindeer. Maybe that made hungry attendees happier.

The summer ispo show will run Aug. 3-6, also Saturday through Tuesday.

SNEWS® Tidbits:

  • You know you’re in Germany when: The Pepsi machines also sell beer. Trade show attendees are smoking not only in the aisles but also in the booths. Service personnel are riding a bike to get around the halls — while smoking and talking on a cell phone. You not only can get coffee every time you turn around, but it’s also good coffee, including from the automat that ground and brewed each cup with a press of a button at the Lufthansa gate at the airport. All the water is “fuzzy” as one attendee put it (meaning it has bubbles). You trip over dogs of all sizes sprawled on trade show booths and in aisles while their owners do business.
  • Extreme” folks from Flow didn’t endear themselves to attendees when en masse they loudly took over the stairs to a subway station, drinking beer, dropping cans, obnoxiously taking over the platform, and making out, then bumped others out of the way to get on the train. This is not the way to win favor as a part of a semi-mainstream sporting goods show and such employees should be informed about proper behavior.
  • Winners of the Rookie Award, part of the BrandNew award program, were a couple of boys in the 10-year-old range who made a rather fun home video of a silly product. Of note was what they wore as they accepted their award on stage at the fancy Saturday night gala: Both wore sweatshirts — One with a large Nike Swoosh, the other with “Timberland” printed in big letters across the front. Boy, who needs to pay for sponsorship with that kind of free exposure?

SNEWS® Product Highlights:

Although there are literally hundreds and thousands of products at ispo, here are just a couple that hit SNEWS®’ eye. Not to say there weren’t lots others that were innovative or new or otherwise outstanding. But many of those we have already written about, as a part of other ispo coverage (e.g. the ispo Outdoor Awards story from the week of Jan. 29-Feb. 4 with the Gore AirVantage and the Vasque Alpinist boot), other show coverage such as from Outdoor Retailer, SIA, or Super Show, past Product Focuses (such as Mountain Hardwear), or will show up in upcoming reviews, or in other stories (see our Illuminite coverage this week in Fitness, as one example).

Camp — With an emphasis on lightweight without sacrificing safety, Camp of Italy, introduced a series of products including two packs, an ice ax and crampon set, a harnass, and a helmet. “This is a step to the extreme,” said Isaaco Codego of Camp. No kidding. One pack is 20 liters, but weighs a mere 390 grams, yet has places for everything. The harness looks like childplay, it’s so small, but Codego guarantees that there is no discussion or compromise when it comes to safety. The harnass (size M) weighs 130 grams. Available for Fall 02.

Nike ACG — Not quite available for Outdoor Retailer in early January were the series of Storm Shoes ACG is putting out for Fall/Holiday 02. The Phassad (don’t be fooled by the spelling — pronounced “façade”) is the so-called “tent shoe,” with a flap that resembles a — you got it — tent to keep your feet mostly dry. The Spindrift is the “sleeping bag” shoe that has rip stop nylon insulated baffles for warmth. The Shastine is the shoe for all dirt-laden conditions, with mudguards. Of note also were the rather fashion sweaters all made of wools that are being sold mostly in the European market. No, not exactly athletic wear, but sort of — as SNEWS® was told — “support product” for the athletic endeavors.

Schoeffel (called Schoffel in the U.S.) — Continuing its high-end and innovative “Project 3000,” Schoeffel showed a jacket called the Interactive 3000 that is actually two jackets in one with a zip-out shell with the new W.L. Gore AirVantage for lighter-weight needs, and an outside parka for heavier skiing demands. It also has all the pockets and storage solutions as well as a power skirt and wrist protection. The company is also now going to put a stronger emphasis on women’s specific clothing through the Klepper line it bought in the mid-90s. Also technical and functional, it puts just an iota more emphasis on colors and cut.

Jack Wolfskin — Also only selling in Europe are Wolfskin’s clothing and outerwear. Too bad. This season’s emphasis is on comfort with stretch built into all the right places for full range-of-motion. One cool feature on a “Converter” Jacket is a powder skirt that zips in and out, along with a lining that zips in along the bottom too to be sure to keep out all the powder for better protection. The company also puts a huge emphasis on kid’s technical clothing but also ones that have huge, thick wraps of reflectivity for better visibility.

SNEWS® View: ispo is truly a grand show, especially for international visitors who want a one-stop overview of all kinds of products, from outdoor and ski, to walking and fashion, to fitness and style. I mean, heck, not only did ispo outgrow its huge fairgrounds in the city of Munich proper, but it’s still so large that it requires two subway stops. Of course, all is not still totally dandy. When outdoor and wintersports areas are so built-out, it’s a surprise and a shock to see something as archaic and depressing as the current fitness area. And attendance from inside Germany dropped this year — really not surprising: Germany may be big, but it’s not so big that companies can’t get around to the different areas for their own regional shows without requiring shop owners and managers to spend wads of cash to travel somewhere else. The ispo show, for which SNEWS® is the exclusive North American news partner for outdoor and fitness, has managed to grow without sacrificing the attention to most segments, keeping the show a real international experience in a real cosmopolitan city and the place not only to see product but also for companies to do all kinds of international business.