ispo winter 2010: Show regains numbers lost, continues with energy and breadth

With a global economic crisis that depressed consumer spending in the last couple of years, some retailers a year ago opted out of the ispo winter 2009 show and those who did come were cautious. This year, panic has subsided, retailers were extolling their glee over a snowy winter and they were ready to buy. SNEWS, on-the-scene, takes an overall look at the mood, numbers and trends at this year’s show.
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With a global economic crisis that depressed consumer spending in the last couple of years, not only did some retailers not attend the winter ispo 2009, but the ones who did attend a year ago were very cautious.

A year later, however, as the panic has subsided, not only did the retailers return to the show, they were also nearly bouncing with glee extolling the winter snows that have socked much of Europe for most of the last couple of months. Fleece jackets? They want them. Ski helmets? Begging for inventory. Ellipticals? Appeasing those who stay indoors. New technology and accessories? Asking for more. Navigation devices? Get them on the shelves.

And, of course, ispo’s way of making everything bigger -- humongous booths, jaw-dropping lounges, artistic presentations (OK, sometimes a little obtuse), lights, camera and, yes, action -- still makes for a trade show experience like no other.

“It’s interesting to see the market here,” said Jay White, vice president of sales for Accell Fitness North America, who managed to get around many of the halls. “The fitness side is very business-oriented and focused, but then you leave the fitness hall, and it’s a whole new world. People are younger. Everything is very overdone… We don’t have shows like this in the United States.”

ispo sent out releases the day after the show closed announcing that the show “continues to grow” and that it has “once again expanded its position” as the international leader in the sports business network.

Well, let’s temper that spin a bit. Yes, it’s big and, yes, it’s glitzy and, yes, the numbers can’t be touched. But (there’s that “but”) it did not “continue” to grow. In fact, this year’s total unaudited attendance number of 64,000 matched what it had two years ago in 2008 after a drop of about 6 percent to nearly 60,000. We’d also like to point out that ispo added a new attendance category this year called “Opinion Leaders,” who could attend on the last day, thus perhaps adding a few extra clicks to the gate count. (As we like to remind every year, European shows count one person as a “visit” each day they attend, so if somebody attends three of four days, that is three “visitors” in the total count.)

Despite shrinking just a bit in overall size -- to just under 1.9 million square feet in 15 halls compared to 2009’s 2 million square feet in 17 halls -- its exhibitor numbers climbed just a hair to 2,045 from 45 countries in contrast to 2009’s 1,950 from 50 countries. Although ispo didn’t address this trend, it indicates to SNEWS® that companies are choosing to downsize just a bit to scrape some savings while still choosing to attend. Plus, the drop of 10 percent in countries that have exhibitors resonates that not all corners of the globe are out from under the economic dark cloud. (That again shows numbers more closely reflecting 2008 numbers: 2,026 exhibitors from 47 countries.)

Where did attendees hail? This year 117 countries were represented, compared to 100 countries in 2009 -- so even if countries represented among exhibitors dropped slightly, those among attendees climbed. (Editor’s note: The English version of the press release had a typo indicating 177 -- oops -- countries, but SNEWS relies on the German news so don’t believe the 177 you may read elsewhere.) The largest contingents came from Italy, Switzerland, Austria, France, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Spain, and the Netherlands (all nearly around the corner), with the next on the list including Korea, the Czech Republic and Sweden.

The show, which celebrated its 40th year, was big, and navigating from hall to hall -- for example, from board to outdoor to ski to running or to fashion -- was like going from one country culture to another. Outdoor is older, more subtle, pretty clean and starts kicking as soon as the show opens, with its share of evening shindigs but more subdued in mood. Board sports is younger, blares you with heavy metal, attacks your senses with the smell of marijuana and leaves you wondering about the work that gets done with dirty floors littered with cigarette butts, and people lounging with beer and Red Bull all day. Fashion has “cool” music, subdued lighting and booths reminiscent in design of 5th Avenue or Rodeo Drive. Fitness, as White said, is quiet, conservative and head-down. The BrandNew award area showcasing new companies with new products is still a huge draw, too. (SNEWS will highlight many of these areas and others, as well as new products we saw, plus non-U.S. companies we met, in stories over the next couple of weeks.)

Great products, gear and technology lined the aisles, but there wasn’t any singular “talk of the show,” must-see innovation. Nevertheless, there was enough to see and appreciate to fill the show’s four days. And if you happened to get bored, you could also skate a ramp, take in a round of floorball, hang out listening to blues piano, or go find a drink in some trendy bar or lounge.

In a statement prior to the show, Werner Haizmann, president of the German association of sports specialty retail (VDS), noted that sports stores were going to turn into a central location that goes beyond great skis, super outdoor apparel or comfortable shoes, but would evolve into shops that advocated movement and activity for health, wellness and, of course, enjoyment. It in fact behooved retailers, he said, to send the message that “sport is in,” that “sport is healthy,” and that “without activity you are nothing.”

The winter ispo 2011 (www.ispo.com) will be Feb. 6-9 in Munich, Germany.

--Therese Iknoian

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