Germany's FIBO show breaks attendance records, still called "slow" by exhibitors

Each year becoming more professionally focused, the 24th-annual FIBO fitness and wellness show in Germany this year broke all attendance records, as well as making a two-digit leap in the total number of exhibitors.

Each year becoming more professionally focused, the 24th-annual FIBO fitness and wellness show in Germany this year broke all attendance records, as well as making a two-digit leap in the total number of exhibitors.

Continuing its increase in annual attendance since 2006 -- after several years of decline -- the four-day show April 10-13 in the industrial city of Essen has proved its steady revamp in halls, programs, organization, and management has turned the tide and kept the momentum.

The show had 476 exhibitors, up 12.8 percent over 420 per 2007's final audited numbers. In addition, attendance jumped to 47,300, up 5.1 percent over 2007's 45,000, including both trade and public attendees. Early reports showed that the trade presence was also stronger this year, with 70 percent of that attendance, up from last year's 63 percent. (The show is open the two last days to both consumers and trade.) Among the exhibitors, 35 countries were represented at this year's FIBO.

Exhibitor Buell Ish of Vectra told SNEWS® on the first day of the show that he had heard the hotels in the area were sold-out. "So that's a good sign," Ish said.

He and others often use the show to meet with distributors from around the globe.

"Our booth was strong, and it was good to meet with key distributors from Europe and Middle East," said Patrick Hald, CEO of FreeMotion Fitness.

Despite touted increases in total numbers and global meetings, several U.S.-based exhibitors told SNEWS® that attendance seemed one of several things: just on par with last year, only moderate, or even "slow."

Of 11 halls covering 71,000 square meters (764,238 square feet), the two largest ones are now filled entirely with fitness equipment, with overflow into areas of two other adjoining halls. The show also includes exhibitors with sports nutrition, beauty, health services, health club equipment and service providers, as well as events for instructors, equipment and program demonstrations, and a body-building area (now with its own entrance).

"The result exceeds all forecasts made during the preparatory phase," said FIBO Director Olaf Tomscheit, in a statement. He noted that more companies and health clubs have shown that despite the economy they are ready and willing to invest in equipment and their clubs and companies. The show not only serves health clubs and fitness studios but also physical therapy centers, health and medical centers, hotels, personal trainers and wellness/beauty shops.

A survey done by FIBO representatives at the show revealed that 90 percent of facility operators expect business to increase in coming months. Full results were not available as of deadline.

Shaking madly, but not shaking 'em up

Despite increases in exhibitor numbers, no new products or product categories were spied, SNEWS® sources said. Still, group classes and instructor-led workouts pumped all over the floor. Even Precor had an instructor leading workouts on its AMT, which dominated the company's FIBO booth as it did at the IHRSA show last month.

Group cycling is still huge and still growing yearly it seems. And the ability for users to track workouts via USBs or some other computerized system is spreading.

The biggest story -- even bigger than interest seen in the United States -- was vibration training, with new trainers and techniques popping up every time you turned a corner on the show floor, several sources told SNEWS®. Since the category began in Europe, it makes sense that new products would also show there first before making it across the Atlantic to North American shows.

Even without wildly attention-grabbing new categories and aisles that were full but not overwhelming, the show for the most part is still a busy one for exhibitors.

"Every year we come to this show, we see improvements with the customers we attract, the business that is generated and the opportunities it provides us," said Terry Woods, director of commercial marketing and product development for Star Trac. "For a show that runs 9 a.m. til 6 p.m. for four straight days, you would think there is a lot of opportunity for downtime, but there was rarely time where you found yourself without a conversation going on."

Award winners for innovation

Even without aisles of new ideas, the Innovation Award goes on, with fewer winners this year than last. Winning this year's ninth-annual Innovation Award was the Abcoaster by PulseFitness of Germany ( or The winner was selected by TUV Rheinland, a "Consumer Reports-like" company in Germany, from 60 applicants in three categories (innovation, health promotion and sports nutrition).

In a special design category, Gym80 took the top prize ( All applicants with products that were named one of the top three in each category was on exhibit in a special Innovation Forum.

Recent winners include Nautilus' TreadClimber (2007) and Technogym's Cardiowave (2006).

In 2009, the FIBO show will take place April 23-26. For details, go to