FIBO show attracts more Eastern European attendees, trade numbers up

Typically massive and sprawling, the FIBO wellness and fitness show in Essen, Germany, closed on May 8 with preliminary attendance numbers showing about a 5 percent increase in trade visitors, with more coming from outside Germany, particularly from Eastern Europe.
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Typically massive and sprawling, the FIBO wellness and fitness show in Essen, Germany, closed on May 8 with preliminary attendance numbers showing about a 5 percent increase in trade visitors, with more coming from outside Germany, particularly from Eastern Europe.

Overall attendance was down slightly, however, meaning fewer consumers showed up to jam the halls on the last two days -- likely because of a conflict with a German holiday and some less-than-optimal weather. Not that the trade minds any decrease in curious consumers looking for deals on clothes, protein powders and supplements, as we hear, but that is an area that FIBO staff has been working on.

"The challenge at FIBO remains the sorting out of fitness professionals from all those attendees coming in to shop at the retail stands or to see things like the bodybuilding exhibitions," Steve Rhodes of Paramount Fitness told SNEWS® upon his return. "While FIBO remains a very different experience from the IHRSA or Club Industry shows, the FIBO staff has done a good job of trying to separate commercial and consumer exhibitors by hall location."

Of 10 halls, three were devoted exclusively to fitness equipment, two exclusively to classes and training such as indoor cycling and Nordic walking (separated for the first time from equipment halls), and the remaining five were filled with all the other stuff such as foods, apparel, music and club supplies such as lockers, soap and flooring. Preliminary numbers showed 45,000 total attendees over four days compared to 48,000 in 2004, with the 5 percent increase in trade attendees.

According to show management, as well as exhibitors and others in the trade, the jump in trade visitors could be a sign that the club market is recovering and beginning to stabilize. A FIBO survey found nearly 80 percent of its show customers were "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with the show's results.

Exhibitor feedback positive

Despite only a third of the halls dedicated to equipment companies, feedback was also good from those who went.

"Paramount was pleased with the results of the show and will return in 2006 with a booth that is 65 percent larger and more strategically located," said Rhodes. "FIBO provides Paramount a centrally located forum to meet with our international dealers from throughout Europe and the Middle East. In addition, FIBO draws a large number of attendees that will be exposed to our products for the first time."

Star Trac, too, found its normally Spinning-focused participation had morphed slightly to include a full-line presentation.

"It was the first time we had our 'entire family' of product on the floor, and customers were thrilled to see it," said Terry Woods, Star Trac director of product management. "Our German sales team was able to secure more leads at this show than the last two combined. Many of our distributors throughout Europe were excited to see how much progress we had made in one year. It was a very important show for us, and we continue to make strides in the right direction at this show."

Innovation awards and industry growth

Nautilus' EV916 elliptical with My Stride adjustable stride technology was the sole winner of the show's sixth-annual Innovation Awards, presented on the last day of the four-day show. Last year, for example, there were three winners, including efi's Gravity Training System in second. According to the FIBO newsletter, it was the only product of five finalists that showed true innovation. Finalists included Panetta Sport's Upper Body Free Line, Bcube's leg press, Polar's Own test system, and Kettler's Synchross cross-trainer.

FIBO Director Sandra Orth said it's clear that diversification of club offerings is continuing and that in turn will give clubs the ability to reach a broader band of consumers. For example, at the show 42.7 percent of attendees said they represented physical therapy, wellness and rehabilitation centers, while 54.7 percent said they came from fitness clubs.

Although most manufacturers and suppliers were exhibiting, there were few "world premier" equipment offerings, SNEWS® learned. That doesn’t stop exhibitors from putting up elaborate booths. Life Fitness for example had a border of white rocks with white light globes throughout them with red banners running through trusses in the booth. The back wall had a bar done up to look more like a night club scene than a fitness show. Cybex's booth was museum-like with a more Euro-standard café featuring seating for nearly 40 visitors. Nautilus had a wide open airy booth with a TreadClimber on a stage with models doing workouts all day. Unfortunately, no TreadClimbers were available for customers or the curious to try.

Technogym played up its Kinesis product, which had been launched nearly two months earlier at IHRSA; it took its typical theme of wood paneling, but as usual hid the product behind closed doors. Technogym also debuted its Element strength line that is placed it seems to compete with Panetta Sports at a value price segment. In addition, the Italian powerhouse launched a Wave product, also in private showings (think cross between front-drive elliptical and side-to-side skate equipment that demanded beaucoup coordination at first).

Indoor cycling remains hot, hot, hot in Europe with standing-room-only classes packed with observers. And, of course, body-building shows remain a thing to see at FIBO -- that and dancing shows that seem to be nothing but eye candy, but catchy for visitors for a few minutes.

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