Friedrichshafen OutDoor show pushes forward grandly

Despite a sluggish economy, the OutDoor show in Friedrichshafen this year celebrated its 10th anniversary in grand style -- showcasing all of the largest companies, scheduling festive events every night of the July 24-27 show, and even showing a significant increase in attendees (up nearly 19 percent).

Despite a sluggish economy, the OutDoor show in Friedrichshafen this year celebrated its 10th anniversary in grand style – showcasing all of the largest companies, scheduling festive events every night of the July 24-27 show, and even showing a significant increase in attendees (up nearly 19 percent).

But even with loads of product and parties, the chatter in the aisles had more to do with the show itself: Would it, could it move to Munich to make it easier (and cheaper) to get to, to find lodging, to do business while there, and to have a bit of urban fun to boot? That’s a hard question to answer – and one the governing outdoor group hasn’t firmly decided although the group did indeed vote, albeit not unanimously SNEWS sources say, to schedule the 2004 edition for July 22-25. Event management also announced the show will stay in Friedrichshafen.

One regular attendee said this year’s show was positive, full of energy, very busy, with a great atmosphere, and that “ispo summer is toast as far as outdoor goes.”

Numbers good, dates agreeable
Considering the show has doubled in size since its inaugural year and that it began as an offshoot of the ispo show by disgruntled outdoor trade members, this year’s numbers are pretty impressive. More than 13,500 attendees came from 67 countries, while exhibitors increased by 10 percent to 492, representing 680 brands from 36 countries.

About those early dates, which will continue next year: Strong attendance indicated it wasn’t too early for most retailers, although some still complained — particularly those from Germany who were forced to leave their shops just as the summer’s annual close-out sales began. But they came. So it did not surprise anyone that the show and its board confirmed next year’s dates in late July also. SNEWS hears those were actually a compromise with some members who wanted it to be much earlier. Criticism of the early dates came mostly, as expected from hardware manufacturers.

As with most shows, if it’s three days, count on two good business days; if it’s four, count on three. Same applied here. Thursday and Friday (the first two days) were the busiest, especially with appointment books filled with the bigger accounts. But the weekend overlap helped smaller shops still slip in without missing as much business. On Sunday, some booths were still very busy when the show was about to shutter. Juergen Siegwarth, sales manager at Meindl boots, stated: “On Sunday, many of the smaller and medium retailers attended the show since they couldn’t come earlier.

Outdoor spirit
In contrast to many trade shows, what is called the “legendary OutDoor spirit” is still evident in every aisle. CEOs and other execs walk around in shorts and sandals. The industry hosts a huge party with dancing and beer one night. A large number of attendees camp-out instead of bunking in hotels. Perhaps being on Lake Contance in the corner of the country is tough for some aspects, but it also contributes to a more casual vacation-like atmosphere.

So the mood was fun-loving and upbeat but the economy still weighed heavy it seemed. SNEWS sources noted that some manufacturers had reduced prices. Reasons? Increased competitive pressure, certainly played a part, but so did the increase in the Euro’s strength against the U.S. dollar. Of course, some manufacturers instead increased the retailer’s margin by lowering wholesale.

“In the early ‘Golden Years of Outdoor Retailing,’ opening an outdoor specialty store was like having the license to print money,” said one well-established German retailer. “Today,” he added, “we really have to do something, be more professional. Stricter controlling, better logistics, and better delivery conditions.”

General trends
SNEWS reporters summarized the following as what was everywhere at the OutDoor show: Light as light can be, comeback of single wall tents, more backpack fabrics with silicon impregnation, softshells on every corner, fabrics with stretch, lamination and welding, unlined Precip-like waterproof breathable garments, hybrid garments with many different fabrics for different purposes, and LED lamps everywhere although a lot of low-end stuff.

In addition, Ortlieb won the European Outdoor Award “Product of the Year 2003” for its sleeping pad, and BHA received the “Innovation of the Year 2003” for event.

Products garnering the most buzz at Outdoor

  • Arc’Teryx: A lot of new ideas in packs with a move into fashion only with its new Street line. Definitely cool.
  • Black Diamond: Zenix headlamp, the first Hyperbright focused LED-lamp (with a reflector and a lens). BD claims it reaches as far as 50 meters with LED. Also, a complete new line of alpine packs.
  • CamelBak: Hydroguard – the bladder comes with built in silver ions to prevent bacterial growth.
  • Cascade Designs: Complete redesign of the entire Therm-A-Rest line. Very promising was the ProLite 3, full-size, body-shaped model weighing only 525 grams.
  • Exped: Skylight – a Swiss-made, solar-powered mini LED lamp. Chip mattresses – To get around the high costs of the down-filled self-inflating mattresses (although they will stay in the line), Exped offers a new and cheaper range using synthetic “flakes.”
  • Hi-Tec: This shoe manufacturer is working on its comeback in the outdoor market and showed some ultra-lite Trekking boots as well as some neatly designed multi-purpose shoes.
  • Lightwave: Interesting new brand: Cleanly designed, China-made tents Mammut: Revelation rope, a 9-mm single rope. The first garments with Nanosphere from Schoeller. (Here come the nano robots.)
  • Marmot: Its highest-end sleeping bags are now made with Pertex Quantum Endurance, a fabric exclusive to Marmot combining super lightweight with excellent protection from moisture.
  • Merrell: Trying to set the standards for flashy design of multipurpose footwear. They are also using Gore-Tex Exo-Membrane, a laminate that comes from apparel.
  • Millet: The French company earned praise for its value as well as for a clean line of garments.
  • Montrail: Made a hit with climbing shoes.
  • MSR: Miox Waterpurifier – it does not work with a filtering device or added chemicals, but through an electrolytic process.
  • Odlo: Welded and thermo-molded sports bras that turned heads.
  • Petzl: It added a fourth LED bulb into the Tikka and Zipka models and has built in a pivot.
  • Salewa: A tent with welded seams. Looks clean, particularly the water-resistant zipper is easy to operate without flap. The company claims the welded joints are twice as strong as the fabrics itself.
  • The North Face: The new pivotal backpack suspension system for larger packs caught eyes all around.
  • Vaude: The German company showed a range of nifty Ultralight packs and applies the 3xDry finish for the first the first time on cotton.