ispo winter 2010: Outdoor gets its business done, Euro products tickle the fancy

The outdoor halls at the winter ispo show may be more conservative and business-like than the likes of board sports, but they get their business done. Although no over-riding innovation trends were present, SNEWS® picked into corners to find a few product and company gems you’ll definitely not want to miss.
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Matter-of-factly, the outdoor expo hall exhibitors at Germany’s ispo show get their jobs done. Somewhat subdued in contrast to other board and fashion halls’ parties and music, the outerwear, footwear, performance wear and accessories filled three-and-a-half halls of this year’s 15, with ski taking another two and board sports yet another two and a half.

Although the place to be if you are doing business outside North America, there are so many brands and booths that it could be easy to get lost among the towering booths in the airport-hangar-like halls. Of course, for the large companies, orders are a done deal by the middle of February, but the exposure, meetings and finalizing with customers for now remains important at ispo.

“The traffic is great, but from a relevancy standpoint, the one-on-one appointments we have before the show are more important,” said Marmot President Mark Martin, who noted that Marmot has been coming for more than 15 years and chinking away at the non-North American market. Indeed, Marmot had meetings, for example, with some mountain resorts in areas like France, but “we were 90 percent booked before we came here.”

Still, Marmot retains its sponsorship of the so-called “Snow, Ice & Rock Summit,” a meeting and lecture area in the outdoor halls, thus also upping the exposure ante.

GoLite had a smallish booth tucked into a back corner of a neighboring hall, but President Demetri Coupounas said he spent a lot of time walking all the halls this year to take in all the varying segments. “The show seemed to me to be noticeably busier,” he noted. To read about overall numbers, mood, atmosphere and comparisons to past years, click here to read a Feb. 12 SNEWS® story, “Show regains numbers lost, continues with energy and breadth.” 

Over-riding trends?

Despite happy retailers because of all the snow in the past two months – happy retailers, happy brands – there wasn’t any one innovation trend that seemed to be popping up around every corner. Sustainability was a given. Green trends, of course, too. Soft shells of varying types were assumed. Body-mapped base layers and mid-layers were everywhere. 

>> Compression stretching its limits

The only real growth SNEWS noted was in the area of compression base layers and tights, tops or socks promoted as performance-enhancing, whether for elite athlete or weekend warrior. With a “compression company” village-like gathering in the sportstyle hall (go figure on that placement), they were all represented, bigger and better than we have ever seen. Skins had a massive monument of a booth. X-Bionic/X-Gear had a sprawling fortress double the size. Nearby was 2XU, whose representative quietly stood in the back at X-Gear’s big press conference on the second show day. CEP, Ziener, Odlo, Craft and others, all of which offer some version of compression layers and all of which tout highly the benefits – even more loudly than in the past – were on hand. Read more on our take a year ago on the trend in an article in the SNEWS Winter outdoor magazine 2009 (click here to see read the article, “Stretching the Limits”); click here to read a review of some of the major players at that time.) With current developments and advances, SNEWS will take another look at the trend in the coming months.

CEP, the sports division of Germany-based medical compression company Medi GmbH, is just launching a large assault on the sports performance market, putting on an hour-long press conference with a presentation of some scientific research. The company just started its foray into the North American market in the last few months, exhibiting at last year’s The Running Event in Texas.

“Everybody is jumping into compression,” CEP CEO Michael Klein told SNEWS at the ispo press conference.

>> Eastern countries not to be taken lightly

Don’t neglect to pay attention to offerings coming out of these areas. Poland is organizing itself too, per Piotr Turkot and Wojciech Slowakiewicz, publishers and editors of Poland’s trade magazine, Outdoor.PL. Enough that they also started an outdoor group in August 2009 called, appropriately, POG, for Polish Outdoor Group (www.pog.org.pl). And it already has 15 members as of the ispo show, they told SNEWS. 

“We all have the same problems,” said Turkot, noting they need market research and to deal with ecological concerns.

SNEWS also spent some time getting to know a real gem of a small company from Czechoslovakia called Tilak (formerly known as Kamler after its founder and CEO, Roman Kamler). Its product (www.tilak.cz) has painstaking detail particularly with clean, smooth apparel interiors. (Click here to see information about some of the detail.) “The inside is just as important,” Kamler told SNEWS, while showing off his product. He founded the company in 1986 when he was “just” a climber looking for some product made as he liked it, and the first time he ventured outside his country was in 1998. His first real international show was the 2000 OutDoor show in Friedrichshafen, Germany.

“I was just a climber,” he told us, who spent a few bucks on some fabric and used his mom’s sewing machine to make a sleeping bag. He doesn’t even make sleeping bags now as a company! Kamler also proudly noted that he grew the company without private equity or investors.

One of his favorite pieces is the Ogre WindStopper jacket with ultrasonic welded seams inside and out. It was just released for the fall/winter 2010 line and now a women’s version is coming out too for 2011. Prices aren’t low, considering the detail. The Ogre retails at about EUR 350. He also noted the new Svalbard WindStopper jacket with PrimaLoft (photo right). What he loves are the removable sleeves with the zippers not placed directly in the armpit -- that not only avoids irritation, but allows a user to unzip it better him- or herself since it starts just behind the shoulder and just above the lowest point. Plus, the zippers are different colors as are the sleeves they match, so you don’t have to fumble with matching sleeves to armholes (EUR 250).

“These are developed for function,” he stressed.

>> Scandinavians just wanna have fun – and make good product

A stroll through the Scandinavian Village is always a good time. Klattermusen won an outdoor ispo award for its Bilskirner jacket (photo left) made of 100-percent organic cotton reinforced with recycled polyester to add durability. The seams are finished and folded meticulously inside, too. “It should look nice on the inside, too, when it’s this expensive,” said co-founder Eva Askulv. The jacket has a retail of EUR 441.

Sweden-based Silva, which as we say each year, is not the same Silva company we know in North America, unveiled more small trail running headlamps in its series, as well as a couple of other practical lights: One that struck us was the Siju (photo right), what the company called a “pocket-sized everyday headlamp.” The headband was narrow and it has a big button on the front that you can’t miss and three different light modes.  No, it won’t take you through the deep woods, but you don’t always need to maneuver the deep woods. This and two other lamps incorporate the new Cocoon storage pouch, which is a integrated garage made of a super, lightweight, small section of stretchy mesh to tuck your headlamp into. No more tangled up bands in pockets, backpacks, suitcases or whatever.

On another note, Bergans of Norway continues to grow, with its German sales and performance earning it the Globetrotter Supplier of the Year award of about 800 suppliers. And one last note: Sweden’s Houdini (www.houdinisportswear.com), which we wrote up in our ispo 2009 winter show report (click here to see that SNEWS story from Feb. 23, 2009), has now started sales of just a few items through Backcountry.com as of spring 2010.

>> Striving for performance

Hubbles
showed up at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market to introduce its new low-profile, wide-based running shoe concept to the market, but the French company isn’t really making a full-court press until this spring and summer with its Hoka One One shoe (pronounce “Hoe-kay oh-neigh oh-neigh” - photo left). Co-founder Nicolas Mermoud, a serious trail runner and skier in his own right, said the concept is a cross between a shoe and a ski with a very light upper and a thicker, wider rocker-like base to add stability and eliminate the stress of going downhill. www.hubbles-shoes.com

The X-Technology company of X-Socks and apparel introduced a product totally outside its realm of clothing: XNutrio, a series of powdered and liquid sports nutrition products categorized by function (power, energy and recovery). The company said the product includes something called “resveratrol” that prevents the build-up of free radicals, enhances immune function and has an anti-aging effect. 

Finding other cool and new

In a story next week, SNEWS will take a look at winners of the BrandNew award, a category where one can find cool, new innovative, international products.

But there is another place to stumble across products that may be fascinating and usually aren’t even being sold -- a small booth from the Technical University of Munich (www.spgm.tum.de) and its sports engineering students. This year, there were two intriguing items that are student projects and, therefore, not on the market:

>> Move.it, which was called “the outdoor light with more abilities” – A small LED light that is shaped like a small tube (about 6.5 inches long and just over 2 inches diameter). You power it with a crank handle to eliminate the need for replacing batteries (30 seconds of cranking gives you four hours of light), and it can be used as a handheld or placed on a stand that can be telescoped up and down, attached to another object or even without the stand’s legs just stuck in the ground. It weighs only about 13 ounces.

>> StrapON, “the universal security light” – shaped like a thin donut, the product with 360-degree lighting can slip on poles to make you visible while skiing, hiking or walking. Weighing less than 2 ounces, it is powered with three LEDs and has a rechargeable lithium-polymer battery.

And then sometimes you just need a little snack. Too bad this jerky, Conower Jerky of Germany (www.conower-jerky.de), isn’t sold in the United States. It’s low-fat, high-protein, lower-carb and has amazing flavors (white garlic, chili-paprika, and sweet and sour) in beef and turkey versions. What was particularly delightful is that it was less sweet and less salty than most American jerky products and maintained a great chewiness while not being tough or stringy. We wanted to keep swinging past the booth to grab samples!

--Therese Iknoian

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