Dueling China trade shows announced by ispo and OutDoor teams

As if the world doesn't have enough trade shows, let alone ones that seem to do the same thing, in the same place, and at nearly the same time, along come announcements within hours of each from both ispo show and OutDoor show management teams in Germany revealing plans for outdoor sports shows in China within days of each other.

As if the world doesn't have enough trade shows, let alone ones that seem to do the same thing, in the same place, and at nearly the same time, along come announcements within hours of each from both ispo show and OutDoor show managements in Germany revealing plans for outdoor sports shows in China within days of each other.

The first announcement, in German, landed in SNEWS® inboxes from OutDoor organizers in Friedrichshafen at 12:39 a.m. on Dec. 15. On its heels came at 2:22 and 2:26 a.m. the German and English announcements, respectively, by ispo of its show. Last, came the English announcement from OutDoor at 5:45 a.m.

Coincidental? Both claim, yes.

Nevertheless, both announced that that the needs of a growing Asia-Pacific region had prompted them to organize a summer platform for outdoor sports products in China, with ispo's "Outdoor Sports Order Show" scheduled Aug. 20-23, 2006, in Hangzhou, and OutDoor's "Asia-Outdoor Industry Summit" set for Aug. 23-26, 2006, in Nanjing. ispo said in its release that the show was being planned "at the urgent request of the industry, which requires a platform in China for its summer collections and year-round sports products;" OutDoor stated it was headed to Asia since "the economic power of China is gaining ground."

In supplemental conversations with SNEWS®, both said they had been planning their respective events for nearly a year.

"The timing of the announcements appears to be a complete coincidence," Stefan Reisinger, director of the OutDoor show in Friedrichshafen for the trade fair group, told SNEWS®. "Naturally, this sort of constellation will lead to a direct competition, although the concepts of each are clearly different."

Does this sort of conflict mean the duel that has ensued off and on for years between the OutDoor and ispo shows – seemingly now at rest – has been reawakened?

"The Asia-Pacific region is a great growth region," Stefan Reschke, director of the show for ispo, told SNEWS®, "therefore, it's not surprising that several organizers are becoming active there. That has nothing to do with competition between Munich (ispo's headquarters) and Friedrichshafen (OutDoor's base), but rather illustrates much more – how urgent the demands of the industry are and how necessary such a summer platform is, no matter who is organizing it."

The European Outdoor Group, which is the owner of the Friedrichshafen summer show and has come to a partnership agreement with the ispo winter show to promote its members' attendance there, will remain neutral, it seems.

“EOG has no involvement with either show in August, but we wish them both good will and remain supportive of the ispo show in March” in China, said Mark Held, executive director of the EOG.

Of note is that Knut Jaeger Marketing & Development, which is based in Nanjing as a represenative of Vaude, will be helping to organize the show. Stated OutDoor's official press release: "The fastest-growing brands in China also include the products of big-name European companies that support the commitment of Messe Friedrichshafen in order be there at the professionally organised start of the Asia OutDoor premiere."

OutDoor also says it has the backing of the Chinese Mountaineering Association and the government there, with dates chosen specifically to work around other international shows as well as other sports shows in China. In addition, Reisinger pointed out that the mayor of Nanjing will be leading the local press conferences on Dec. 20 in Beijing and on Jan. 10 in Nanjing.

ispo points to its experience after its first ispo China show in March 2005 that it has the know-how to reach retailers and attract them to its show. It says the August dates for a complementary outdoor show to March is because the outdoor segment in China is growing by leaps and bounds, demanding its own platform separate from the March sports show.

"We are convinced that because of the market volume and the growth dynamics of the outdoor market in Asia," Reisinger said, "that the Asia OutDoor is the correct trade show concept, with the correct partners, in the best place for the industry."

SNEWS® View: Oy vey! (or, should we say, Ach du lieber!) We know that China is the next new frontier for business, and every business is drooling over the potential market. And we know that China may be big enough to handle two trade shows at nearly the same time, but are there enough outdoor industry companies globally to go around and enough Chinese outdoor retailers to support both shows? Doubt it! We applaud ispo for being the first into China with the March show, but wonder if it shouldn't focus on that time and make that show work for everyone. Most who attended last year with whom we have been in touch with commented that the show was a good start, but that it had a long way to go.

We do know that outdoor industry companies told ispo that the March dates were too soon for them, so little wonder that ispo was exploring other options. Still, it is also worth noting that major outdoor brands are fully backing the March time frame, including the Tecnica Group, Aicad, Gabel, Gregory, Gronell, Merrell, Leki, Codeba, La Sportiva, Vasque, Rukka, Kamik, Torray, Sigg, and Vibram. Ispo recently reported that Lowa, Northland, Craft, Trere, The North Face, Tatonka, and W.L. Gore had signed a three-year contract extending to '08 with ispo China. Chinese outdoor manufacturers Ozark and Ttiss have also committed to the March ispo show we've been told.

We also know there is little love lost for whatever reason between the ispo show and some outdoor companies that currently exhibit at OutDoor in Friedrichshafen. We also believe that both ispo and Friedrichshafen are too well-connected and too much in touch with the same people to act as surprised as they were that the other was planning a trade show in August for the outdoor market.

Bottom line here is that having two shows will do no one any good, least of all a growing Chinese outdoor industry. From what some of our European and U.S. inside contacts are telling us, we'd give the Friedrichshafen show the best chance of coming out of the gate with a stronger show that best serves the interests of the outdoor market in August. We also believe that ispo March will continue to gain strength for both the outdoor and sports market -- just as ispo Winter in Europe owns its postioning as top dog.

Our U.S. contacts are also telling us that Outdoor Retailer-owner VNU has expressed an interest in China—please! Let it not be so! Enough trade shows already! Besides, VNU would be a day late and a dollar short on this one; we doubt it would bring anything more, better, or different than what two very experienced trade show organizers – management of both ispo and OutDoor -- are already capable of providing.