The European Outdoor Group (EOG), which owns the OutDoor brand name with two capital letters, overwhelmingly decided early last year to move its OutDoor show to Munich, after its 25 years of existence on Lake Constance, and its choice has apparently proven correct. The numbers were pretty good, for a start, and so was the convenience of a big city that can be easily accessed from anywhere in the world, with a lot more hotel space to choose from than in the Friedrichshafen area.
Some exhibitors and visitors resented that they had to take the underground instead of the ferry boat on Lake Constance to get to the fair, which is what they have do to see many of the same people at Ispo Munich at the beginning of the year. However, this was more than compensated by the open spaces and the more natural atmosphere inside the halls, the more informal program of conferences and Messe München's promise to keep the action going for the outdoor sector in a multi-channel mode 365 days a year, starting with the launch of a new online consumer magazine called Outdoor Society.
Messe München, whose attendance figures are audited, reported a total of more than 22,000 daily visits from some 90 countries at the show as compared to an uncertified number of 20,000 daily visits at the previous edition of the OutDoor show in Friedrichshafen.
Thanks in part to its geographic location, the show was quite international in terms of attendance, with about two-thirds of the visitors coming from 90 countries outside Germany. The largest foreign contingent came from Italy, followed by Austria, Switzerland, the U.K., France and the Netherlands. Interestingly, Italians represented 8 percent of all the visitors, meaning a total of around 180 professionals, compared with about 100 in Friedrichshafen, according to a well-informed source.
The large empty spaces in some of the halls gave an impression that the show was less crowded. It looked in fact nearly deserted on the first day of the show on Sunday, before picking up momentum on Monday and Tuesday. A survey showed that 85 percent of the visitors were decision-makers and 87 percent of them rated the show as good to excellent.
A total of 1,018 companies – 84 percent of them from 34 countries outside Germany – agreed to participate in the premiere of the trade show, including all the major players in the core outdoor market who were previously showing in Friedrichshafen and a few others from collateral sectors for a more inclusive notion of the outdoors. Some of them were no doubt attracted by reduced rates for participation in multiple fairs organized by Messe München, including Ispo Munich and Ispo Shanghai. Non-core exhibitors included companies like Billabong, Element, Endura, Griffinqz and Gabor Footwear.
The rather original and pleasant layout of the show, where no company was allowed to stand out in the front row with a large booth in the main halls, as at Ispo Munich, was made possible by installing wide spaces in the middle of the halls, creating a more welcoming and relaxed community atmosphere, while reducing costly investments in large booths. The abundant floorspace at Messe München allowed OutDoor by Ispo to sprawl over nine of its 16 big halls, with large aisles in the middle and one of the halls being used to promote mountain biking.
Showing very few products and placed in the middle of a hall, The North Face decided relatively late to sign up for the show. In contrast with its previous grandeur, Jack Wolfskin showed in a smaller space than before, emphasizing its commitment to sustainability.
Columbia, Salomon and Salewa continued to stay out of the fair as before. Others, such as Berghaus, Lafuma, Millet, Bergans, Haglöfs and Norrøna, preferred to see first how the new concept was going to work out, and we understand that at least one of them will participate in OutDoor by Ispo next year.
The community spirit was enhanced by the decision to hold more interactive conferences and debates in dedicated “lounges” and “hubs” inside the halls, rather than in remote conference halls. One of the 18 “focus points,” the Retail Lounge, was sponsored by the Outdoor Industry Compass. We will discuss some of the conferences in our next issues.
To meet the demands of key players like Vaude and Patagonia, the subject of sustainability was placed clearly in the foreground. Following a self-imposed Sustainability Code of Conduct developed together with the industry, Messe München banned carpeting and decorated the halls with lots of wood and vegetal displays. It also reduced drastically the use of paper in catalogs and show guides, encouraging visitors to use its app to navigate through the stands and the conferences.
Saying that he was “proud” to host the OutDoor show in the capital of Bavaria, Klaus Dittrich, president of Messe München, pointed out that the relatively modern Munich fairgrounds are committed to sustainability from the start. They use solar panels to reduce energy consumption, and bees are nesting on its roof.
In parallel to the show, consumers were invited to participate in a dense program of 33 outdoor activities and events in Munich, such as barefoot night-time hiking, in partnership with 43 companies including major local retailers.
As usual, there was some criticism about the relatively late timing of the show, which is taking place several weeks after the international sales meetings where most orders are taken, but next year's edition will run one week earlier, from June 28 through July 1.