Fitness ispo in Germany taking on new energy, potential, legitimacy

For a number of years, SNEWS® has harassed the fitness segment of the winter ispo trade show in Germany for being a bit of a joke. Last year, we reported the 2006 edition was a bit better -- at least on its way to becoming more legitimate. We are extremely happy to report that this just-completed 2007 edition was pretty darn good indeed.
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For a number of years, SNEWS® has harassed the fitness segment of the winter ispo trade show in Germany for being a bit of a joke. Although some of the hall held a hodge-podge of a few legit suppliers, they were thoroughly mixed with booths hawking rinky-dink pieces not worth anyone's time, and sprinkled here and there with a few soccer ball or trophy suppliers and the requisite fat-jiggling machines.

Last year, we reported the 2006 edition was a bit better -- at least on its way to becoming more legitimate.

We are extremely happy to report that this just-completed 2007 edition was pretty darn good indeed.

"This is becoming more Denver-like," said Dave Neziol, Accell Fitness North America's sales manager, referring to its exhibitors that showed a broader range of quality equipment and accessories. Accell, with its equipment brands Tunturi and Bremshey, had moved forward into part of the large, front-row space vacated by Icon Fitness (known as Aicon there), which had cancelled its presence in the fitness hall only recently, we were told. We had also been told Aicon was in a style hall with its new apparel, but couldn't find hide nor hair of it in any directories or listings.

Even with increased legitimacy, traffic-building remains a tough row to hoe, since the hall for the fitness ispo remains an entire hall back from the main throughway of the gargantuan show grounds, meaning it takes a focused effort to get there. Someone has to really want it. But when SNEWS® cruised through on the fourth and last day of ispo in the early afternoon, lo' and behold, it wasn't a silent graveyard but still held reasonable traffic at a time when much of the show is starting to pack up. Perhaps helpful was the addition of two new halls in that second layer back of halls with additional outdoor, ski, textile supplier, team and ice hockey exhibitors. Plus, a new third "north" entrance to ispo with attendee lounges was right next to the back halls, including fitness, making the area more accessible in general.

"Fitness has been positioned better this year," said Ulfert Boehme, managing director of Style Fitness, which represents Vision and Horizon in Germany, Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland. "There was a lot more traffic than normally we've had in past years. We were completely booked solid. Maybe ispo promoted it better."

Certainly, ispo has been making an effort, with the placement since mid-2006 of a manager, Jose Moreno-Tapia, overseeing fitness (plus team and running), who has loads of energy and enthusiasm and has been able to focus more on shaping up (pun intended!) the fitness segment. That only made sense considering the growing market in Europe and Germany as well as globally. In fact, just a few years ago, so-called specialty fitness stories were only smattered here and there and nearly a non-entity. But now we're told they are increasing in numbers and have become more of a force in the market.

“From the standpoint of fitness, we had a really super ispo,” Moreno-Tapia told SNEWS® after the show closed. “The north entrance helped a lot and functioned really well for fitness retailers attending. Feedback in general was quite positive.”

Still, ispo had to "postpone" a planned awards program for fitness and wellness products. (click here to see an Oct. 18, 2006, SNEWS® story, "Winter ispo show to upgrade fitness segment, launch innovation awards.") We think partly due to a late kickoff. But Moreno-Tapia promised the awards in several categories (including hardware and accessories) will happen for the summer ispo show, which is a time of year he said when perhaps fitness, wellness and health play an even greater roll in everyone’s lives.

Despite the falling-through of the awards, the show still had a small pilot area called "WarmUp" for new brands and products. Following the style of similar areas in other halls for outdoor and ski, the areas provide an inexpensive, small, pre-done but simple booth space so a new brand -- or one new outside its home country -- can just bring some samples or displays and … voila … instant booth.

Interestingly, Kettler still had its fortress covering nearly half the front row, but with Aicon gone, the other half was taken over not only by Accell but also by Reebok Fitness (Greenmaster equipment), backed up by York and a couple of smaller booths on the back side. That actually made for a friendlier hall; instead of tall walls lining the front aisle (Kettler's and Aicon's) creating an impenetrable canyon, the open booths of Accell and Reebok allowed visitors to see beyond to other hanging banners, lights and equipment and helped spark some energy and interest, we think.

Overall, we look forward to what ispo can do to build on this for the 2008 winter show. Now if only we could clear the equipment with fat-jiggling belts off the floor. 

To see our comments and overall review of the entire 2007 ispo show, including attendance, click here for a Feb. 14, 2007, SNEWS® story, “Germany's ispo show finishes with record-breaking growth, and non-stop glitz, glamour and gear.”

To see our Feb. 19, 2007, SNEWS® story, "Fitness ispo: products and brands also a highlight at Germany-based show," discussing a few product highlights we saw in the WarmUp area, the main fitness hall, and among BrandNew award winners and finalists, click here.

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