New "ispo China" takes outdoor, fitness to growing Asia market

To tap into the growing Chinese and Asian markets, the ispo trade show management in Germany has announced it will organize a new trade show, ispo China, to take place March 14-17, 2005, at the Shangai New International Expo Center in Shanghai Pudong -- an exponentially growing market pegged as the third-largest in the world.
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To tap into the growing Chinese and Asian markets, the ispo trade show management in Germany has announced it will organize a new trade show, ispo China, to take place March 14-17, 2005, at the Shangai New International Expo Center in Shanghai Pudong -- an exponentially growing market pegged as the third-largest in the world.

Launching as a small sporting goods show with only 120 to 200 exhibiting companies, the venture will showcase four sports areas: outdoor/snow, fitness/wellness, team sports and boardsports/youth fashion.

"We want to pave the way into the Asian markets for our international exhibitors and support them in their international strategies as well as in the development of foreign markets," said Manfred Wutzlhofer, CEO of ispo management, in a German statement given at a Feb. 1 press conference that took place at the ispo sporting goods show in Munich, Germany.

"On the other hand, we also want to help Asian specialty retailers, as well as full-line specialists, distributors and import companies to access new brands and products and to allow them access to first-hand information that is so vital and decisive for their business, and especially necessary in the current times," he said at the conference.

Wutzlhofer said exhibitors would be limited to strong brands and companies already doing business internationally.

The ispo management company, Messe Muenchen GmbH, will organize the event as a joint venture between Shanghai Pudong Land Development Holding Co. and German Exposition Corp. International GmbH. The German group includes not only the Munich show group, but also the show group in Düsseldorf and the German trade fair AG (Deutsche Messe).

Conversations about this venture first began in 1998, with groundbreaking for the modern and new Shanghai New International Expo Center in November 1999. The center opened two years later. The startup investment for the first phase was USD $99 million.

Wutzlhofer said the first show will likely be about 118,000 square feet of the 800,000 square feet of exhibit space that will be available at the expo center by 2005. The show is planned for four days -- three of which will be limited to trade visitors with the fourth day open to the public.

"The goal must be for (the exhibitors) to have the opportunity to show their brands to the public," he added at the conference when asked about the public access. "This is a common concept in China already."

Addressing concerns that the show would open up companies to knock-off artists, Wutzlhofer said management will take whatever steps it needs to try to stop imitators from combing the halls for ideas. For example, he told SNEWS after the conference that only international brands will be allowed as exhibitors, not just Chinese companies; the brands must prove they are already on the market; attendees must prove they are truly members of the trade or retailers; photography of any kind will be forbidden; a committee will review each applying exhibitor; and the entrance ticket cost will be high enough to discourage non-professionals.

He acknowledged that putting a 100-percent clamp on any knock-off artists from wandering the halls and surreptitiously snapping pictures with camera-equipped cell phones is of course impossible, but management will do whatever it can. He also said that once any product is in stores, it is easily imitated anyway.

Response to the show on the ispo floor and around the world, including the show floor at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, was immediate:

Marco Zanatta, chairman of Italy-based Asolo spa, told SNEWS®, "It's a good idea. I think China with its large population is only going to grow and they need product. You see a lot of Chinese here with camera phones, but a European company must invest in research and development and then protect its developments with patents. I see this as a good opportunity."

"This is a very smart move by ispo," added Mike Pfotenhauer, president of Osprey Packs. "The Asian market is growing significantly and this would be one of the best ways to tap into that growth."

Kevin Grodzki, president of Life Fitness, told us, "Over the next couple of months, we will work to learn more about the focus and objectives of the ispo trade show in China, and if compatible, we certainly will support the show. Life Fitness has a strong and growing presence in Asia/China, with long established subsidiary operations in Hong Kong and Japan. This market is strategically important to our business and has good growth potential."

Mark Hrubant, international sales director of U.S.-based outdoor specialist Mountain Hardwear, which is already in 40 countries around the world, said, "One has to be very careful because of the counterfeit and gray market. That means one has to police that carefully. I think it's a great opportunity, but if you want to protect your intellectual property, you have to do your work upfront….China is potentially a great market."

The ispo statement pointed out that of 1.3 billion residents of China, about 400 million of them are active in sports and fitness, already more than three times what the figure was in 2001, according to ispo statistics. The organizing group estimates the potential market volume for sports gear there in 2001 alone at about USD $25.9 billion, up from USD $16.4 billion in 1999. The group estimates that by 2006, the market will grow another 94.2 percent to more than USD $50 billion and, if it does, will become the top market in the world, leaping above current leaders, North America and Europe.

"We are very convinced," Wutzlhofer said, "that we have the right idea, we have the right time, and we have the right organization to do this."

More information is available at www.ispochina.com.

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