Germany's ispo show cutting edge, uses marketing savvy to add global pizzazz

Coinciding with the lead up to "Mardi Gras" pre-Lent party time, the ispo sporting goods show in Munich, Germany, Feb. 6-9, nevertheless remained the focus for sports retailers and manufacturers in fields as diverse as skateboard, outdoor, running, fashion and fitness. In fact, the show just keeps getting bigger, more international and, overall, better, with an energy that oozes from the aisles in most segments and sucks in wide-eyed visitors even to areas that aren't their focus.
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Coinciding with the lead up to "Mardi Gras" pre-Lent party time, the ispo sporting goods show in Munich, Germany, Feb. 6-9, nevertheless remained the focus for sports retailers and manufacturers in fields as diverse as skateboard, outdoor, running, fashion and fitness.

In fact, the show just keeps getting bigger, more international and, overall, better, with an energy that oozes from the aisles in most segments and sucks in wide-eyed visitors even to areas that aren't their focus. The combination of music, central gathering points for several segments with demos and lectures, glitzy fashion shows featuring 5th-Avenue choreography, highly marketed forums and workshops, and an ability to think and present itself much larger than in its own reality makes ispo more than just a sports show but a happening. Subways were shoulder-to-shoulder the first two days heading to and from the convention grounds, and the grand, two-storied, sprawling entry area was also packed with visitors waiting in long lines to register.

Nevertheless, this year's show recorded about the same number of total visitors as last year – about 57,500, according to data received by SNEWS® based on post-show reports that found errors in initial reports that noted 2,500 fewer. That means the reported 17-percent increase in attendees in 2004 stabilized in 2004, rather than went down slightly. The visitors took in exhibits, meetings and shows in 14 sold-out halls that covered more than 1.7 million square feet.

The number of exhibitors eked up slightly to 1,774 from last year's 1,732 (also up from 2003's 1,500-plus), coming from 46 countries. Germany, being the home country, attracted 36 percent of all attendees. The 10 countries with the next-highest numbers of attendees were Italy, Austria, Switzerland, France, Great Britain, Spain, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Russia and South Korea.

This was the first year of the change from a traditionally Saturday through Tuesday run to Sunday to Wednesday, partly to accommodate small retailers who may normally have a hard time getting away from their businesses on a Saturday.

Aside from an expanded "ispovision" area that focuses on youth, fashion and trends, Nordic fitness (such as Nordic walking and running) received extra attention due to the European boom in those activities. The outdoor and ski segments combined took up five of the 14 halls. Other large areas were textile trends and sportswear, with board sports taking about 2 ½ halls (and producing about 10 times that much energy).

“The presentation at ispo is just fabulous," said Steve Carlson, Central Coast Snowboards, in the United States. "It's a great mix of fashion and sport that is truly inspiring. Ispo's way of tying together different programs is done really well. It is impressive that ispo has the wherewithal to bring new companies into the mix and bring attention to their products and innovations."

Adding to the hoop-la was a bevy of awards given to products in categories ranging from women's products, ski, outdoor, running, newcomers (called BrandNew) and style (see separate SNEWS® story, Feb. 21, "For international recognition, an ispo award is hard to beat")

"We German and European retailers know the value of what we have at ispo," said Werner Haizmann, president of the European Trade Association and the Association of German Sporting Goods Stores (VDS). "We had four great days of extraordinarily successful business."

SNEWS® View: ispo winter is really a world-class sports happening cleverly disguised as a trade show. There really isn't anything like it anywhere in the world that we have seen -- and we've seen a lot of trade shows. We would go so far as to recommend to all of our U.S. readers that an occasional visit to ispo would be in order. If you haven't been to ispo winter, no matter what your business focus, you need to -- even if you don't do any business with a European company or in a European country. No where else can you see, in one place, the potential synergies and opportunities for cross-pollination of ski, outdoor, sports, fitness, and fashion, as well as experience smart marketing on such a grand scale. Regulars and first-timers from the United States told SNEWS® unanimously that ispo is the ideal energy source of ideas, creativity, inspiration, and innovation from other worlds, other sports and other minds. And that energy, that fountain of ideas, can be applied to the world of outdoors, sports, wellness and fitness back home. Oh, the things Outdoor Retailer Winter Market and SIA could accomplish if the two could just find a way to cooperate on location and timing -- ispo makes that all so obvious. This is also the way the entire world of sporting goods can be combined successfully under one roof, while still making sure each segment feels as if it has its community esprit de corps.

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