Germany's OutDoor retailer study shows global market optimism

More than 60 percent of outdoor retailers worldwide say they expect the industry to grow in the next year, according to the results of a study released by the management of the OutDoor show in Friedrichshafen, Germany. In addition, Jack Wolfskin is seen overall as the best manufacturer to work with.
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More than 60 percent of outdoor retailers worldwide say they expect the industry to grow in the next year, according to the results of a study released by the management of the OutDoor show in Friedrichshafen, Germany. In addition, Jack Wolfskin is seen overall as the best manufacturer to work with.

The study commissioned by Messe Friedrichshafen and done by the area's Zeppelin University was released at the late July show. The release did confuse some attendees about who was behind what study since the trade association, OutDoor European Group, had also released a summary of results from its own research, though the OutDoor survey provided little beyond summary numbers.

Once you figured out the difference, you found the Zeppelin University study -- posted in the entrance foyer on placards, but only in German -- came from a survey of 4,000 visitors of the OutDoor show in 2004, of whom half were from outside Germany.

The survey fell into three segments: experience and prognosis of the sporting goods/outdoor industry, a look at what was called the "typical" outdoor/sports enthusiast, and trade information. (As background, realize that there are fewer purely specialty outdoor shops in Europe and in some other countries, and that many sporting goods stores also are considered the source for outdoor gear and expertise.)

Without translating a thick sheaf of results, we at SNEWS® (and yes, thankfully one of our team is fluent in German) will summarize a few highlights by section:

Experience and prognosis

For the outdoor industry, perhaps the most interesting question in this section was buried halfway through it, where it asked about how the respondent felt about the next year. The goal was to find out if the poor economic situation in many countries and particularly Germany would also affect the sporting goods industry as well as outdoor. Sixty-one percent of respondents said they expected the outdoor segment to grow in the next year, while only about 48 percent said they expected general sporting goods to grow. Nearly 30 percent said it would remain the same, while only about 8 percent said the industry would shrink. That compares to about twice that number that said they expected general sporting goods to fall on bad times.

Fashion and lifestyle-oriented apparel it seems has also struck around the world, with 83 percent of respondents saying that non-outdoor or sports-oriented people consider outdoor apparel "chic."

In another question, respondents were asked what words they associated with outdoor. "Nature" was named as No. 1, with "mountaineering" and "leisure" being named as second and third.

Respondents said in answer to another question that the market size in Germany is difficult to define. Nearly a third said they had no idea how large it could be, another third estimated that it was about Euro 1 billion to 1.5 billion (USD $1.215 billion to $1.823 billion). That compares to the study released by the European Outdoor Group, which in contrast to surveying retailers surveyed EOG member companies, that estimated the German market to be worth about Euro 1.535 billion (USD $1.866 billion), representing an average growth of 3 percent. The EOG study also estimated the European market to be Euro 5.104 billion (USD $6.2 billion), with a total growth over 2003 of 2 percent. It also found the largest growth 2004 over 2003 to have occurred in Austria (7 percent) and Scandinavia (6 percent), while the least growth was seen in the Benelux (-2 percent) and the United Kingdom (-1 percent).

Of industry segments, apparel was seen as the most important, and both apparel and shoe segments were seen as having the largest growth in the last few years.

Typical outdoor enthusiast
Attendees said they thought the typical outdoor person was between the ages of 30 and 50, with the most between 30 and 40. Those under 30 are few and far between.

In regard to how often and when these enthusiasts participate in outdoor activities, attendees said the outdoor enthusiast on average takes part in his or her chosen activity once a week and travels at least 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) and as much as 50 kilometers (31 miles) to do so.

The reason most participate in an outdoor activity is for rest and relaxation, 75 percent of respondents said, while 37 percent do so for exercise.

Trade information
At least among this group, trade journals are the most read source of information (81 percent), while about 45 percent said they also use the Internet to stay informed. On the Internet, most attendees said they use the websites of manufacturers to keep up-to-date.

When it comes to ordering, most said a trade show is primarily about getting a preview of the product and getting information, with the majority saying they order directly from the manufacturer (79 percent) after the fact.

When it comes to brands, Jack Wolfskin won big kudos as the overall No. 1 brand (58 percent). Mammut came in second (35 percent), then Lowa (30 percent), Meindl (28 percent), The North Face and Vaude (27 percent), Salewa (20 percent), Petzl (13 percent), adidas (10 percent), and Columbia, Fjallraven, Scarpa, Schoeffel, Tatonka and Berhaus (each with 8 percent).

In various categories, the top companies were named as followed:
Backpacks -- Deuter
Hardware -- Petzl
Apparel -- Jack Wolfskin
Sleeping bags -- McKinley and Mountain Equipment
Tents -- Vaude
Footwear -- Meindl, Lowa

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