Retailers from around the globe not only converged on the annual ispo show in Munich, Germany, Feb. 6-9, 2011, but they did so in numbers that far exceeded any previous show. So busy, even the trains to the convention center remained SRO and packed shoulder-to-shoulder on the last day when most shows slow considerably.
“It’s been insanely busy,” said Nate Alder, founder of Klymit, maker of Argon air-filled sleeping pads and outerwear, which was at the show for the first time. Retailers “come here prepared to do business, and they’re open to new technology and new brands.”
Shocking, in fact, was how much the numbers leapt skyward after a couple of stabile or slightly down years: Preliminary numbers released on the final day of the show by management revealed just over 80,000 -- about 25 percent more than the 64,000 reported a year ago, which had matched the 2008 attendance after a drop in 2009.
In Europe, remember, each “visit” is not one person but one person at the show for one day at the show. So if each person came four days, that would be for example 20,000 people for 80,000 “visits.” But that explanation is not to downplay the obviously heavy attendance and, from manufacturer and exhibitor reports, incredibly happy retailers with empty stockrooms after a cold winter all with money in their pockets ready to buy, buy, buy. We even saw retailers just coming to the show for the first time mid-day the fourth day with appointment books in hand.
Skip Yowell, founder of JanSport, who has been coming to the show since 1980, said he is a big ispo fan because of the breadth of exposure you get to retailers and distributors from all over the world. “Nowhere can you get so many different people in four days exposed to your brand,” he said, manning the first JanSport brand booth there in six years. “Plus, you get to see all kinds of trends and lots of different things. It’s great.”
From outdoor to fashion to board sports, fitness, running, performance, textiles and everything in between, the 16 halls covering nearly 2 million square feet of space, are not only packed to the high ceilings with products and trends, but also are a sight like most shows in North America simply aren’t: Theme bars, networking lounges, sweeping booths, theatrical presentations, high fashion, and bikes and scooters dodging each other in the aisles (sometimes handy is a set of wheels to cover the 1 kilometer -- 0.62 miles -- from one end to the other). Net exhibition space covered nearly 1.1 million square feet, including everything from Armani suits, soft shell jackets and rocker skis, to treadmills, knit hats and even fur jackets and glitter-studded base layers.
“It’s been a madhouse in here,” said Jim Hodge, manager of the U.S. business for fitness equipment supplier Kettler, which was in a corner farther off the beaten path than just about any other company. “We have been terribly busy -- just non-stop.”
On the other side of the aisle, exhibitor numbers too went up by 200 to 2,267, meaning some are stuck into corners or along corridors when they come knocking and ispo goes looking for the space. They came from 49 countries, up four from a year ago. Of note also is that 84 percent of visitors come from outside Germany and 67 percent of the exhibitors are from outside the home country (but unfortunately the definition of “foreign” here does include the likes of Austria just a few hours away, as well as other European countries). But not every number goes up: This year 106 countries were represented, compared to 117 last year, still up from 100 in 2009.
Although hard-pressed to find any hint of this on the show floor, ispo management had announced prior to the show that its theme this year was health and wellness, noting that in Germany alone in 2009 more than EUR 2 billion (USD $2.7 billion) was spent on things like fitness studios, sports and active travel, and wellness products.
“This new ‘health style’ offers a huge potential for the entire sport industry,” said Klaus Dittrich, chairman of the board of ispo’s Messe Muenchen management, in a German statement a few days before the show began. “With that in mind, we need to keep this new demand even better in mind as we develop products.”
The ispo show 2012 (www.ispo.com) will be Jan. 29-Feb. 1 in Munich.
Get an inside look of ispo 2011 from our roving reporter:
Hockey brand Warrior somehow felt a sexy half-naked lady fit its image and told you soooo much about the product… No, we don’t get it either.
Many of the most common products are displayed with fashion flair at ispo, like these from an exhibiting shoe company, which hung product from colorful strings and displayed shoes museum-like on counters.
Sometimes all those halls and millions of square feet, not to mention the beer, can tire you out. In that case, the lounges can come in really handy…and this was only the first day!