ispo 2011: Outdoor remains the darling of the show and at retail

Even during the recent economic doldrums, outdoor continues to boom as a segment of the ispo show in Munich, Germany. Outdoor was named as one of the key drivers of growth at sport retail, and SNEWS took a look at some innovative products at the show that push the trend along.

Even during the recent economic doldrums, outdoor continues to boom as a segment of the ispo show in Munich, Germany. Older and more conservative perhaps than other areas, it still packs three halls of 16.

Yet, if you look at what may be considered “outdoor,” most of what is in the convention center, about 2 million square feet, could fall loosely under that umbrella: In addition to those three halls named as outdoor, there are another two halls for ski, another two for performance/running, three for board sports, one more for textile trends — not to mention two for sourcing alone — and the remainder filled out with fashion, fitness and style.

Outdoor and all that belongs to it was named as one of the key drivers of growth at sport retail by Werner Haizmann, president of both the German and European retailer associations, in a presentation to the German media a couple of days before the ispo show.

And, Andreas Rudolf, CEO of the buying group Sport 2000, told German media on the first day of the show that the retail drive caused by outdoor isn’t just about performance.

“It doesn’t just have to do with snow,” Rudolf said, “but style. This is a particularly positive segment for this year.”

Compared to a decade ago, the outdoor segment has grown by half in the amount of space it covers at the show, elbowing aside other areas. With that comes products and trends from brands looking for more sales not only in the still-strong German market, but also in the broader European and growing Asian markets.

Just like the U.S. outdoor shows, safety gear such as helmets and avalanche gear, the continued infusion of technology and communication, as well as advancing textile manufacturing methods including eco-trends remain some of the biggest trends. Barefoot and minimalist running is also creeping into the halls, with VivoBarefoot making its debut and Vibram holding court.

“The booth has been really crazy,” said first-time exhibitor VivoBarefoot marketing director Patty Kahn. “It’s been a great response (since) we’ve never been here before.”

Point6 merino wool sock maker was there for the first time in a small booth on a side aisle, talking to passers-by and meeting with new distributors as it ventures outside the U.S. market.

“It’s been very exciting,” said marketing director Betsy Seabert. “People are curious who we are and some have already tested our products. We’re getting a lot of people from different countries looking for merino wool and a nice sock line. They like the fact it’s American.”

Gregory Mountain Products was also back at the show to make sure it stays top-of-mind for retailers.

“It’s been good,” said Gregory’s Dion Goldsworthy. We’re looking for “more regular contact with our distributors and also to debut our new travel collection.”

As usual, SNEWS® snooped around the halls looking for a few highlights not necessarily seen across the Atlantic. (any prices translated from Euros to USD is for information only and may not be indicative of an item’s price if it were sold in the United States):


To read more about general show trends, click here to see a Feb. 10 SNEWS story about the 2011 show

Bergans of Norway introduced the three-layer, waterproof/breathable jacket Isogaisa. But the story behind it, the company said, was its new Dermizax NX material by Toray, which it said was twice as breathable as its Dermizax predecessor, while still retaining its four-way stretch and softness. The company also called the material “considerably more breathable compared to conventional membranes.” This first season it is being used by brands Bergans, as well as Kjus and J.Lindeberg. (Read its stats on the Toray site by clicking here.)

Houdini of Sweden entered the merino wool category with 18 styles using a mix of merino and silk. The styles will be of “premium value,” meaning they won’t be exactly inexpensive, with a long-sleeve zip top running about EUR 100 (USD $135, photo – left), but the soft hand and lightweight makes it a winner. Click here to see a Nov. 24, 2010, SNEWS story about the brand, “Tiny Swedish apparel manufacturer Houdini joins list of ‘top’ European innovators.”

Ivanhoe of Sweden has been in the trendy wool category for 55 years, but it is boiled wool. Still a small family-run business (we spoke to the founder’s grandson), it has expanded its line of jacquard wool sweaters with a textured knitting technique. It uses both merino, a combination of lambswool and merino, as well as mixing in some nylon as needed for strength. Prices stay lower because everything is done in Sweden by the family at the company, except buying the yarn elsewhere, said Anders Goethager. For example, a zip jacquard jacket runs about EUR 130 (USD $175).

One of the most fascinating launches was a product called the PowerTrekk, a portable fuel cell charger that converts hydrogen into electricity — think the “H” of H20. Swedish developer “myFC” did a soft launch at ispo although the debut was set for the Mobile World Congress on Feb. 14 in Barcelona. CEO Bjorn Westerholm explained to us the fuel cells use the hydrogen atom of water to keep a charge and, then, to supply users with power they need for equipment. In other words, if you have water and you have air, you’ll get power. A so-called PowerPukk holds the charge after being stoked with about a tablespoon of water. No waiting for solar harvesting, the Pukks charge instantly. The Pukk fuel cells do at some point lose their ability to hold a charge, so the company also sells packs of the lightweight palm-sized pucks. Expected to ship in October, the PowerTrekk (with about 20 patents behind it) should retail at about EUR 148 (USD $200) with Pukks costing about EUR 0.79 (USD $1) each.

We stopped for fun to watch a demo of the Ski Trainer — we and a constant throng of others. A room-size, interactive piece, it allows users to switch between skis or snowboards. Watching the demo guy slalom down a virtual slope projected in front of the trainer was enthralling. Keep in mind, though, this isn’t a home trainer, but rather something a resort or high-end training facility might invest in.

Vaude, now positioning itself as “Europe’s greenest company,” won an ispo outdoor award for Eco Responsibility for its Blue One tent. Made of cotton ripstop and recycled materials (65-percent recycled polyester and 35-percent organic cotton), the tent’s materials and manufacturing are all bluesign-approved. The tent is touted as having excellent wind stability, with a two-sided siliconized outer tent fly for good rain protection and high UV resistance. The new Natives collection of packs and bags is designed with diamond-shaped fabric pieces to create striking patterns but also to leave less waste. About 90 percent of the materials are bluesign-approved, except a few buckles and zippers. At this point, nearly a third of Vaude’s goods have a green story. A year ago 20 percent of the company’s apparel had an eco theme, while this year it’s jumped to 50 percent.

See more innovative products in our Feb. 14, 2011, story about new companies in the “BrandNew” award pavilion. Click here for that story and photos

And, for fun, take a look at photos about the bar, lounge and restaurant scene. Who can argue with classy areas, relaxing seating, great food and a few games mid-show? Click here for that Feb. 21 story

–Therese Iknoian