European FIBO fitness show attracts larger int'l audience

GERMANY -- With 420 exhibitors in seven halls, the 25th annual FIBO fitness show in Germany attracted more than 47,000 attendees this year, with 40 countries represented, up from last year's 28 -- an increase in international representation that wasn't lost on exhibitors.
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GERMANY -- With 420 exhibitors in seven halls, the 25th annual FIBO fitness show in Germany attracted more than 47,000 attendees this year, with 40 countries represented, up from last year's 28 -- an increase in international representation that wasn't lost on exhibitors.

Scott Logan of SportsArt America said the company had distributors from more than 30 countries attend meetings, while Tom Campanaro of efi Sports Medicine made distribution contacts for 15 countries for the Gravity program it launched internationally at the show.

"It was awesome for us," Campanaro said of the FIBO show, which is dubbed the "World's Fair for Fitness, Wellness and Leisure." "We're going to be busy little beavers."

In addition, efi's Gravity program, which was launched in North America at the IHRSA show a year ago, won one of three Innovation Awards at the show, the fifth annual presentation of those awards. First place was given to a so-called "Strobobike" by Panatta, which projects training measurements while it's being used. The second place award was bestowed on efi's Gravity Training System. Third place was won by "Trainlight" by German company Frei AG.

Among U.S.-based companies represented at the show were Body-Solid, Nautilus, Hoist, Hampton, Life Fitness, Matrix, Precor, Star Trac and True, according to exhibitor lists. Louis Stack, president of balance-specialist Fitter International, said he walked the show and "probably did more business" than if he'd exhibited, meeting with existing distributors and making contacts for new agents.

"All in all, it was very good," Stack told SNEWS®. "It was very busy."

Although those with whom SNEWS® spoke about the show said traffic was down slightly, meetings and "quality" remained high, they added. Several noted that at the European show it's obvious the stature of Italy-based Technogym. One attendee told us Technogym's booth looked like Grand Central Station at rush hour, it was so constantly packed with throngs of people. At the show, Technogym also introduced Technogym-branded balance products, including a rocker board and wobble board.

SportsArt America introduced the first five of its single-station selectorized strength-training pieces, with sleek A-shaped aesthetics designed by a German firm. The company will eventually have 28 pieces plus a modular station, said Logan, who was attending his first FIBO show. He said that the company received increased commitments for product from nearly all its distributors.

FIBO is slightly unusual for North Americans who are more accustomed to segmented shows. The show has sprawling halls with everything from exercise equipment, toys, clothes, body-builder accessories, vitamins and other supplements.

"It was unique from the standpoint of having multiple product categories," Logan said. "Not everybody walking through the halls is interested in your product. They may just be passing through" to another hall.

And on the last day, it opens its doors to consumers, who pour with curiosity into the halls. One attendee said he viewed that phenomenon -- a European tradition for many shows -- a "pain in the a--," while another said he had "mixed emotions." Clubs look at consumer reactions, so getting good feedback from the public can bring sales, he said.

"We do it over there because that's the way they do things," Campanaro said.

Although post-show information praised the attendee count of 47,000, it was apparently slightly depressed since pre-show information said 55,000 were expected -- a number it attributed to the "boom years" of fitness. Nevertheless, as the fitness market in Europe stabilizes and additional countries join the European Union and take on the Euro currency, the market is stabilizing, and the show was therefore called by organizers "the most important FIBO of the last 10 years."

"This year's FIBO was an important marker of the direction for the entire industry," said Hans-Joachim Erbel, director of the show's parent company, Reed Exhibitions, pointing to the interest in things other than equipment such as health and personal care items. "FIBO is an international market."

The 26th annual show will be May 5-8, 2005, in Essen, Germany. For more information, pictures and updates, go www.fibo-messe.com.

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