ispo continues to see strength in outdoor category

From the traditional halls and booths of outdoor and ski ispo to the rather funky and loud but nevertheless sensationally inspired showcase for the BrandNew award winners (requirement before entry: triple espresso), ispo continues to see strength and seek strengthening in its outdoor offerings. Only a few weeks out of the winter show, where outdoor and outdoor-lifestyle nearly dominated award venues, the deadline for entering the BrandNew contest for Summer 2007 is already approaching.

From the traditional halls and booths of outdoor and ski ispo to the rather funky and loud but nevertheless sensationally inspired showcase for the BrandNew award winners (requirement before entry: triple espresso), ispo continues to see strength and seek strengthening in its outdoor offerings.

Only a few weeks out of the winter show, where outdoor and outdoor-lifestyle nearly dominated award venues, the deadline for entering the BrandNew contest for Summer 2007 is already approaching. Click here for more information to see if your company or someone you know qualifies before the April 6, 2007, deadline.

Of 16 halls at the winter show in early February, seven were either 100-percent outdoor and snow sports or outdoor/snow played a strong part, while outdoor-flavored products and gear were sprinkled throughout another three in the style areas. Despite having the same great (yet overwhelming) number of booths, new products, award winners, presentations, lectures, special exhibits and events to try to catch, a few attendees noted to SNEWS® that the outdoor halls seemed a bit monotone and quiet, especially after a walk through the energetic board or style halls. Granted, we doubt many in outdoor would want the volume of music, the quantity of smoke, or the littering of cigarette papers and cups on the floors seen in those halls, but the attractive community aspect was unmistakable. (Regarding the music, SNEWS® even came across a Jack Wolfskin manager in the aisle about 20 feet from the company booth on the first show morning, only to find she was there because they already had complaints about, yes, music volume for the company's fashion show. And it wasn't even that loud.)

One missing element that in the past helped bring in traffic, community, interaction and energy was the Outdoor Summit area where lectures and roundtables were held during show hours, beer and water were on tap, and happy hours were the name of the game. Partly to accommodate exhibitors who didn't want to be shunted off to outlying areas, ispo management moved the Summit to a rear hall to free up space. Sure, that resulted in the desired space in the main hall, but it also made educational events in the Summit area all the more difficult to drop into and withdrew the excitement it provided on the floor of the outdoor hall. That's what you get for having such a popular show, we guess.

Among U.S.-based exhibitors, SmartWool President Mark Bryden said he was a bit overwhelmed by the size of the show, but that the European market was getting the wool concept; the booth was packed the entire show. Newcomer-to-ispo GoLite had a small booth that nevertheless didn't want for traffic. Said Bill Dodge, company general manager, footwear, "We had a steady flow of people."

Already covered in previous SNEWS® reports in February were the show dynamics and overall trends, as well as economic looks at the industry in Europe. SNEWS®, of course, also took the time to saunter among the new, European, or otherwise forward-thinking brands and products that held court in the many halls. Here are a few highlights:

Feelmax Footwear -- In the traditional outdoor halls, Feelmax's slogan was "Go Barefoot." Basically, this Finnish footwear, including urban wear, as well as running and hiking shoes, proclaims you can strengthen your feet and be a better athlete because Feelmax "simulates moving barefoot." But the company apparently didn't want to commit itself since its press release said the "breakthrough" footwear "appears to strengthen sole's muscles," emphasis on appears.

HandiRack – One of those things you stare at and say, duh, why hasn't somebody else done that, is HandiRack. Selling for about two years in the United Kingdom, sales and marketing director Toby Davis said the inflatable roof rack system was actually developed in Australia about seven years ago. The long inflatable nylon pieces can hold 80 kilograms total (176 pounds) and aren't punctured easily because of an outer skin and an internal bladder. A double-action pump that comes with it inflates the pieces in about 15 seconds. Not sold in the United States yet, Davis emphasized the company had to "walk before it could run" regarding distributorship and was looking for a good partner. Oh, and the price for the set is only about EUR 85 (about USD $113).

Lifepod – Remember boom boxes? Remember the sigh of relief when personal music systems became all the rage and you didn't have to listen to somebody else's choices? Get ready to listen again. Lifepop, a BrandNew accessories finalist, has little purses, bags, backpacks and urban gear that has MP3 hookups inside and speakers outside so you can drop in your iPod or other player, plug it in and once again annoy people around you. Ain't that grand? From Brooklyn, founder Jason Entner said that wasn't a problem since you could also use headphones. But why the bag then? Said Entner, who said he's not a fan of blasting out people, "We're bringing music back to the people."

Musuc Selk Bag – You know how a tot looks when he or she is bundled up inside a snowsuit to go play, but resembles the Michelin man? Well, that's a little like what the Selk Bag looks like. A BrandNew accessories finalist, Musuc designed a suit that is really a sleeping bag, so you can move around or walk in it. You could also go make snowmen, we presume.

NeverLost – Stopping passers-by in their tracks was a really orange booth in the rear of one hall. We do mean orange, we mean fluorescent, construction worker, hunter orange. We mean so much orange you needed sunglasses. Bags, thermoses, water bottles, coffee cups, stuff sacks…all orange. NeverLost, out of Sweden, was just introducing itself and its theme of never losing your stuff again -- in backpacks, on the airport's suitcase carousel, in a pile. The company was catering to the travel and outdoor markets. What if you get so popular somebody has to figure out WHICH orange bag is theirs? "Well, then I'll be a millionaire," joked co-founder Kare Gravell.

Scottevest – New to the U.S. outdoor market last year, Scottevest was also a BrandNew finalist with its shirts and apparel that are made to accommodate "stuff" you may carry, including but not limited to MP3 players and phones.

SnowSkirts – From the United States and only out for a year, founder Sharon Stamp was overwhelmed with response from her company's cubicle in the BrandNew award area, where she was set up as a finalist. She had been talking to distributors from such places as Germany and New Zealand and just raved about the honor it was to be there. Her products are, of course, skirts that are worn over tights and technical skiwear. Hers are also made of technical fabrics too.

VersaLayer – Another U.S. company that was a finalist was VersaLayer with its concept of opening and closing openings in an outer layer so the wearer doesn't have to constantly put on and take off, then try to figure out where to stash an item.

Westcomb – Out of Vancouver, Canada, Westcomb and its founder Alan Yiu were winners of the YKK Sportswear BrandNew Award and were showing off a series of items it had just shown at Outdoor Retailer. They included the Recon Hoody (MSRP $300), which Yiu said was the first combination of a new single-weave Polartec Powershield and laminated PrimaLoft Sport. Continuing to combine materials, the Union Jacket (MSRP $290) used Westcomb-custom Schoeller soft shell that was combined with merino wool. And the Rampage HX Hoody ($330) also was a combination with Event and Schoeller for protection, mobility and breathability.

X-Gear – On the regular show floor, X-Gear announced a daring partnership with Jan Ullrich, German Tour de France rider who was banned at the last minute from the 2006 edition because of alleged drug connections. No proof has been admitted and Ullrich maintains his innocence, therefore, the X-Gear motto, "Enhance performance without doping." Watch for a bigger presence for X-Gear (X-Socks, X-Bionic) in North America soon under a new partnership with Lowa North America.

OK, so we'll skip the BrandNew Style finalist Horny Bodies with the motto "Light Your Fire." Out of Spain, we fear the translators weren't quite on top of things. Or, then again, maybe they were.


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