Growing OutDoor show in Germany more international, gets industry thumbs-up

The international outdoor industry gave a big thumbs-up to the 12-year-old OutDoor show in Friedrichshafen, Germany, with both visitors and exhibitors showing up in greater numbers. More U.S. companies were on hand this year to introduce themselves to the European market, while others chose the show to unveil new 2006 product.
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The international outdoor industry gave a big thumbs-up to the 12-year-old OutDoor show in Friedrichshafen, Germany, with both visitors and exhibitors showing up in greater numbers. More U.S. companies were on hand this year to introduce themselves to the European market, while others chose the show to unveil new 2006 product.

"We have become nicer, better and more international," said Rolf Schmid, Mammut CEO and chairman of the European Outdoor Group trade association that owns the show.

SNEWS® spoke to exhibitors and attendees from around the globe, including companies from as far as Estonia and Thailand and as close as Switzerland and France, all of whom couldn't stop raving about how key the show has become for them. Numbers from the July 21-24 show backed up the enthusiasm:

  • The number of exhibitors rose 13 percent, from 574 in 2004 to 650 this year.
  • Preliminary numbers (as of 12:30 p.m. on the last of four days) showed attendance was up about 7 percent, from 14,130 to 15,137.
  • Attendees came this year from 78 countries, compared to last year's 68 countries, and 59 percent of total attendees were from outside Germany.
  • Square footage jumped 9 percent from last year's 268,180 square feet (24,915 square meters) to this year's 293,420 square feet (27,260 square meters) in 10 halls. Two of the halls were filled to capacity with tent cities featuring tents from dozens of brands. That leaves both halls as options for expansion for booths if the management chooses to move tents outside.

"We are very happy and satisfied," Stefan Reisinger, show director, told SNEWS®. "We had a healthy increase in all important numbers."

Beyond expectations
Several U.S.-based companies exhibiting at the OutDoor show told us that this year's event went beyond expectations and was turning more professional in its operation.

"We had a great show exceeding my expectations, with energy and foot traffic and momentum that is continuing to build," said Mike Hosey, president of Highgear, known outside of North America as Tech Trail. "This is our second year, and we are noticeably more busy this year than last, with increased interest from multiple countries around the world.

"The international presence at OutDoor is growing," Hosey added. "As far as other trade shows and regional events, if you are an outdoor company you have to be at OutDoor. It is a non-negotiable."

SNEWS® noticed and talked to a larger number of U.S.-based companies who were new this year to Europe and to the OutDoor show, including Life is Good, Alf (now Kuhl), Teko, Crocs and Ruffwear. In addition, representatives of several European companies at the show told us they would be walking Outdoor Retailer in August as their first step into the U.S. market, or that they just added a U.S. distributor. (More on a few of these product highlights in the second part of our OutDoor show coverage next week.)

Interestingly, many companies from North America and Europe used this show, rather than Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, to introduce brand new 2006 product, including Helly Hansen, Mountain Hardwear, Macpac, The North Face, Highgear, Prana, Gregory, Leki, Arc'Teryx, Cascade Designs, Mammut and Asolo, among many others. (Next week's product recap will also include a few products that caught our eye that you will likely also see at the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City.)

All seemed impressed with traffic quality.

Said Osprey CEO Tom Barney, "This is the best European show for Osprey in our history. It is extremely well-attended, and the show is getting more and more professional with buyers now interested in more than just product and wanting to talk with us about marketing, margins, turns and asking other very good business questions."

A good time had by all

Not to give the impression that the show is all business. The Euros know how to have a good time, with beer, champagne, espressos, good food, live music and drinks flowing not only during happy hours at the end of the day, but also all day in some booths. The annual party put on by Vaude at its headquarters in the nearby city of Tettnang always draws a rockin' crowd, with the company's test center open for tours and the grounds open for partying. In fact, SNEWS® knows of a few company execs who barely made it back to their hotels before they had to drag themselves back to the show.

In addition, the annual OutDoor party, which is actually outdoors, held the last night of the show gets several thousand attendees. Buy a ticket for Euro 15 (USD $18) and get not only a sought-after souvenir party T-shirt from sponsor Polartec, but all the food you can eat, beer you can drink and music. This year's two party zones included a band specializing in classic '80s rock and another with less raucous jazz and blues. So hefty was the partying that a certain PR person from a certain footwear company that specializes in trail running shoes with a company name that starts with an "M" based in Seattle (but we'll never tell who) tried to see how many people could fit on a rented bicycle to ride (ride?) back to the hotel. Apparently, that Euro city bike just wasn't built for the combination of numerous British and American butts on and around the seat area and the rear wheel turned into an ellipse shape. Oops.

We also appreciate the creativity apparently exhibited by a number of rather lubricated Brits who, when faced with overwhelming numbers of European nationals on the other end of the tug of war rope simply ran a few turns of the rope around an iron post, firmly imbedded in the ground. When the referee sounded for the start of the tugging, the non-Brit side of the rope ripped skin from hands and nearly tore arms out of sockets with the initial heave, giving the win by default to the British contingent. Who ever said cheaters never profit?

Oh, and we've seen waffles, ice cream, margaritas and all kinds of various food and drink at shows, but never before have we been asked to sample stir-fried grasshoppers and crickets. No, really. A company called Tropicare that specializes in mosquito nets and first-aid product offered them to passers-by every day for lunch. Oh yum, little feelers and bulgy eyes staring at you. No, thanks, we're suddenly vegetarians.

Research happening
Both the show management and the trade group EOG released numbers from two different studies, some preliminary, and considered the start of getting a better grasp of the outdoor market in Europe.

We'll run a complete story, next week, looking at preliminary findings from the EOG survey and summary numbers from the Friedrichshafen show participants' survey -- both quite fascinating in terms of what is revealed about the European market.

Finally, there was a rather heated discussion around the changing of show dates by the Munich-based ispo show management, but the debate resulted in what appears to be a genial compromise (see SNEWS® story, July 25, 2005, ispo/OutDoor show date tussle resolved: OutDoor shifts for 2006).

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