Germany’s OutDoor show continues to grow: Attendees from 91 countries

The trend of lighter and ever lighter gear dominated the 18th annual OutDoor show in Germany, July 14-17, where attendance numbers jumped dramatically. SNEWS was there to give you a first look and inside preview.
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With economic worries waning, attendees and exhibitors at Germany’s 18th annual OutDoor show filled the aisles at even greater numbers than a year ago, spending four days sizing up ueber-light gear, listening to sustainable stories, and trying on stylish jackets or beefy boots.

From exhibitors to media to attendees, preliminary numbers released just before the close of the show jumped significantly – SNEWS® wandered the aisles and can attest to brimming booths most days. Attendee numbers at the July 14-17 show grew 5 percent to 21,520, while 890 exhibitors (an increase of 3 percent over a year ago) filled 12 halls as well as an inner courtyard and inside atriums (photo, right, of climbing wall in west atrium).

The number of media attendees took the biggest leap, with 1,012 editors from 32 countries (up 10 percent over 2010) gathering to see products – with many products being shown for the first time globally. (Ed. Note: In Europe, traditionally, one “visit” is equal to one retail buyer entering the show on one day, meaning for example three “visits” could be the same retailer coming on three different days. Manufacturers, media and other VIPs are not counted.) Nearly two of three attendees came from outside Germany, the show reported, with the strongest increases coming from Asia and North America. Ninety-one countries were represented at the show.

“I want to be as educated as possible," said Bill Owen, of Outdoor Specialty Group in the United States. “If you don’t come here, you’re not serious.”

Education doesn’t just mean looking at products (although SNEWS will have more product reports soon), but also seeing what brands and manufacturers are doing outside of North America. Plus, the show serves as a way to find out what the industry is talking about in other countries. For the most part, general trends seemed to jibe with the United States:

>> Super light gear and apparel was being talked about or shown in many booths. In the booth of one large Germany-based company, SNEWS found the spokesman gave weights for every product he introduced – without being asked – since it’s become key information (photo, right)

>> Minimal footwear is on the upswing although one still finds more beefy, leather, traditional hiking boots and day trekkers in Europe.

>> Trail running isn’t as much of a topic although many companies are still trying to introduce trail running footwear. Without growing numbers of people trail running, Deuter, Leki, Meindl and Lowa continued their promotion of “Speed Hiking,” a concept introduced a year ago that is intended to bridge the gap between slow, conservative walking on mountain trails, and serious alpine running.

>> Sustainability and recycling issues are perhaps bigger topics of conversation in Europe than in North America, with small companies such as Sweden’s Houdini being lauded for a line that is 80 percent recycled materials, and more companies turning toward outerwear made of densely woven or treated cotton. Merino too is big and getting bigger (photo, left, of Icebreaker promo who walked the floor).

“Europe has a very technical customer,” said Shawn Buckley, national sales director of the Brunton Outdoor Group, told SNEWS. “They want every little spec.”

Despite talk in past years of economic slowdowns, the outdoor industry seemed to weather the crisis better than others, many reports have shown.

“Our industry is a very resilient industry,” said David Udberg, president of the European Outdoor Group and Lowe Alpine’s managing director, at a press conference on opening day July 14. “And that trend of resiliency has continued. We see once again very strong growth figures, and our sector is becoming increasingly attractive to investment.”

As usual, the seriousness of perusing products and writing orders was mingled with laid-back activities in the courtyard and aisles, with climbing and bouldering competitions and slacklining everywhere (photo, right). The now-legendary industry party filled the courtyard with thirsty, hungry attendees – many wearing sponsor Polartec’s now collectible annual t-shirt, and many rocking 'til the wee hours – or riding the mechanical bull (photo, left).

“People are saying we are the most important show,” said show spokesman Frank Gauss. “People expect a perfect business platform,… but also to be having fun, in the nature, at the lake.”

The 2012 OutDoor show will be July 12-15. For details, go to www.outdoor-show.com.

--Therese Iknoian

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