Despite paring back by about half a hall for the outdoor-specific exhibits, ispo continues to find huge resonance for outdoor manufacturers and exhibits, particularly as the wave of outdoor-influenced lifestyle spreads farther.
But the show, for many exhibitors a place to meet with distributors and find additional distributors in far-flung corners of the world, is also much more than products and meetings: It gives retailers the chance to network in special lounges, serves up long programs of forums and panel discussions on current product trends, brings together new and innovative (or even oddball) brands and small companies, and highlights product niches such as wearable technologies.
For the outdoor segment, now packed into 3.5 halls of 16, with the related ski halls ensconced in the neighboring 2.5 halls, enthusiasm in Europe seemed relatively high since the winter season had seen lots of snow and cold weather – enough for fleece, gloves, hats, boots, waterproof outwear and all that other gear to jump off shelves. Most retailers came ready to see – and to buy – new product, albeit a tad more cautiously than in other years, SNEWS® heard, and with more of a push for longer terms and more credit from suppliers.
“ispo was strong for us and the mood seemed good,” said Mark Martin, president of Marmot. “As with the U.S., most of our key account business in central Europe and Sweden is completed prior to the show.” But the show is a promotional and marketing forum and a place to meet with distributors, he said, as well as a place for those foreign distributors to meet with their customers. The Marmot booth – a welcoming and open format facing the main thoroughfare -- was packed on one night with attendees kicking back at tables listening to an intimate rock band.
As we reported in our overall story about the show on Feb. 5, 2009, “Mostly bubbling retailers pack show halls, express caution but are ready to buy” (click here to see that story), the outdoor and ski areas found huge interest in helmets and safety items, partly based unfortunately on fatal ski accidents involving German politicians in December and January.
In its annual “Barometer,” the SAZ trade newsletter in German reported 78 percent of its respondents saying sales of ski helmets were very good or good. More than half said backpack sales were very good or good, while 26 percent reported sleeping bag sales were very good or good. Even Nordic walking sales were reported by 29 percent as very good or good. Skis weren’t as positive a segment: Alpine equipment sales were reported by 26 percent as good; none said they were very good. Also rated more as fair were sales of ski bindings, ski boots, cross-country and ski poles.
Bold colors were in it seemed, with bright and pure greens, blues and pinks with little or no color-blocking at every corner. Norrona (www.norrona.no) of Norway took the colors to an extreme by re-merchandising its booth every day: Redressing mannequins and moving them around to show off its bright, nearly fluorescent line.
As in the United States, the green and sustainability messages became de rigeur although implementation by manufacturers is still a mish-mash. To bridge the mish-mash and create a common platform, the EOG’s new Sustainability Working Group held an open meeting at the show to start conversation about joint work and establishing an index to help consumers better understand the concepts. About 50 representatives from various companies attended, including Vaude, Haglofs, Deuter and Polartec, with EOG president Mark Held kicking off the group’s first meeting.
“A lot of intention of this is to get feedback,” he said. “A proliferation of standards is not in everybody’s best interests and it becomes fragmented.”
Conversations would also be held with the similar U.S. group, he said.
“This industry isn’t European or American. It’s a worldwide industry,” he said. It’s global.”
Klaettermusen co-founder Peter Askulv was there to tell the group, “Don’t let ‘perfect’ be the enemy of good,” and emphasized the need to do something: “Don’t let complexity stop you from doing something.”
Rather than waiting for an industry-wide group to come up with answers, Sweden’s Klattermusen for example debuted several steps toward greater sustainability and even sparked its own meeting with manufacturers to talk about sharing “green” resources, co-founder Eva Askulv told SNEWS®.
- Its new “Ecoindex,” which will launch in March 2009, will grade every single product in its catalog on 10 possible factors, although some products may not be have particular factor applied (for example a factor for waterproofing without PTFE could not be applied to a garment that was never waterproofed). In its new catalog, every product will be given a percent, for example gaining four of six possible for the item would earn an index of 67 percent.
- The company also unveiled a recycling program called rECOver for its garments, offering consumers deposits on all returned clothing and equipment. Its new catalog for example shows values of euro 1, euro 5, euro 10 or euro 20 (about USD $1.25 to $25), based on the product’s original value. Each product has a tag that stresses its returnability and the value a consumer would receive for use in the store where it’s returned. Once the consumer returns the garment, the retailer clips out the tag and sends that back to the company. The consumer receives a refund check with the value on it. “It’s not money for nothing,” Eva Askulv said. “It’s money for garbage.” The company would either dissemble it for recycling when it’s received, resell it if it has value as a used item, or donate it to charity.
Other companies launched with a focus on green and sustainability themes, such as Germany’s Pyua, a sub-brand of Christ Rose, (www.pyua.de). A BrandNew award finalist, Pyua focuses solely on sustainable apparel made of recycled and recyclable materials.
Innovation in products
Besides meetings and green themes, products were of course part of the show. SNEWS reviewed winners of various awards in a story Feb. 4, “ispo show award winners for outdoor, ski, eco responsibility and 'Sports & Style'” (Click here to read that story), which included U.S.-based companies such as Prana in a style award as a newcomer to the category.
In other corners of the show, SNEWS found a few companies, products and trends of particular interest:
Gloryfy – In the darker and quieter rear portion of a boardsport hall, we stumbled across a snazzy booth that was open and beckoning. Gloryfy (www.gloryfy.com) is a totally new company out of Austria that has three styles of sunglasses (euro 100) and goggles (euro 120) that are completely, totally, 100-percent bendable, flexible and unbreakable. Not that we tried every angle to snap them but we did some hard twisting and turning in the booth. Even the lenses are made of a special material that doesn’t break – they pop out perhaps but don’t break. The temples pop apart, but don’t break. Just put ‘em all back together again if you manage that. And they don’t look like playthings but are indeed quite fashionable. The company says they rolled over its products with a 27-ton vehicle as a test and they were unscathed. Per one of the founders, the company just launched in Austria in December 2008 and is nailing down additional distributors.
Houdini – New to ispo and exhibiting in the Scandinavian Outdoor Group area, Houdini was founded in the early ‘90s, with its first product (and still in the line) being sport bras made of a micro-fleece that were hand-sewn by the founder. Her vision was to create a company that only manufactured 100 percent recyclable and recycled products. The company says it is now at 80 percent and climbing. This year at ispo was its coming-out party behind the Scandinavian markets and a few others such as Germany and Japan. Hanna Lindblad told us the company has worked “from the inside, out” in apparel development and is now showing shells – all at premium prices. Houdini showed a box that is placed at retailers so consumers can return items for recycling, which are then, through Houdini, shipped to the supplier, Teijin. There is a personalization in the apparel: for example, inside the new soft shell jacket is a message that states in part, “I’m a proud member of the Houdini family. I used to be a Japanese school uniform and then went on to become a bunch of soda bottles. Now I finally evolved into this piece of high performance soft equipment….” www.houdinisportswear.com
Mammut – In its European glove line, Mammut of Switzerland launched its new “Lace Fit” closure system – inside the ExpertClimb glove and mitten it basically looks like a shoe lace system. Outside, users just pull the lace and use a hook-and-loop closure to secure it at the level of snugness that is comfortable. Interesting concept for variable fit. At this time, it will not be carried in the North American market. www.mammut.com
Sweet Protection – This 9 year-old Norwegian company was started by four friends, who still run the company together. The four came up with the lower-volume helmets because co-founder Erik Martinsen said they were all tired of high, dorky, ugly helmets, which originally were only for white-water kayaking. Now they have branched into board sports and have had requests for biking. In addition, they have moved into other areas of “protection” such as outerwear using Gore-Tex. The theme is always aesthetics and cool with bright colors making a statement. In the North American market, where it now sells direct, it so far only sells its kayak helmets. www.sweetprotection.com
Tenson – Also in the Scandinavian area, Tenson (www.tenson.com) was relaunching its look with a new logo, colors, website, communication and overall direction. “We were a little bit too old,” managing director Johan Lovqist told SNEWS. “We need to sharpen ourselves up.” Tenson began in 1951 as a skiwear manufacturer. The redesign’s goal is to take it from old-style skiwear into an urban sportswear arena.
UCan by UBanana – Catch your attention, did we? Yeah, with a name like that you have to believe the company is more than a bit fun. The founder Paul Bays knows how to play the game with comments like, “There’s room in the bowl for another fruit,” and “there’s’ another fruit on the block.” He was a finalist in the BrandNew awards with one of the coolest little pieces we saw at the show. A totally waterproof MP3 player (euro 100) embedded in a tiny “U” shaped headset that comes in black or yellow (hence the “banana” tag). It floats and the MP3 player, which holds 2G of music and plays for about 15 hours, pops out of it to plug into the USB port of your computer for downloading music. The earphones just dangle out the ends so there are now floppy cords. We tried adjusting the headset when it was on and, once you learn the switch controls, it was easy. www.ubanana.com
2010 ispo winter date change reminder
The 2010 winter ispo show has been rescheduled for a week later than originally slated, to Feb.7-10, 2010, to not conflict with the rescheduled SIA show (Jan. 28-31), which moved its date for its move to Denver in 2010 from Las Vegas.