There is much debate around the new date of the Munich show as it seems to make no sense to have a gathering after the forward order books close. However, I think those who leap to this conclusion should have retired with the dinosaurs. Last week I was fortunate enough to visit the OutdoorTradeShow.com in reality, the British outdoor summer exhibition. It was surreal to be back meeting people face-to-face; I was nervous at first as I had not been in such a busy place for a year and a half (since the 2020 ISPO Munich event) – but it was a wonderful experience.
Wandering around the show, speaking to the exhibitors and visitors, there was an easy conclusion to make: cybernetic communications have been fine to confirm orders, some of the best had beefed up their virtual presentations to make them everything but tactile; but they are lousy for initiating relationships. Those who consider retailers as just the location for sales to happen have missed the boat. Over lockdown, most brands accelerated their direct-to-consumer portal, and for lots of people, this saw their sales continue (and even increase). Hence why the contribution of what retail brings to the experience has been overlooked – the missing link that helps breed excellence.
In the U.K., there was always an additional message given out by the government during lockdown – keep up the daily exercise routine. This translated to the Outdoor industry because the sales of core products picked up as the choice was for what people knew would work. This distracted the attention away from all the new product launches – which generally fell flat. What retailers bring to the sales process is hands-on explanations led by listening to those who want to buy it. Two good examples of this are the Outdoor Gear Chat podcast by Cathy Casey (of The Climbers Shop in Ambleside) and the Trekkit YouTube channel (a Welsh retailer) – which reminds me so much of the original work done by Globetrotter. Today’s world of instant social media offers a channel like no other before, and that is for brands to hear from their end customers easily; the problem is that so many marketing directors regard it as just another one-way communication channel.
These same people lead the promotional activity at brands that cannot make sense of the October show. All the brands have sales teams back on the road securing orders for SS22. The autumn event offers retailers a chance to find out what brands support the values they want to be associated with. Product is key, but it changes each year; the values are what underpins various brands. We all know what Patagonia and Arc’teryx stand for, but can you clearly define what Ortovox, Jack Wolfskin or Craghoppers represent? If there is an unending marketing budget, every new product can be promoted; but it is a wise company that knows that if they make you love the values of the company, the audience will buy whatever products are produced.
One of the focal points of such gatherings are the Outstanding Outdoor awards at OutDoor by ISPO. There is some brilliant technology on show that often is in advance of even the judges’ comprehension (the PP membrane used in Helly Hansen products got a bigger recognition this year than last year because its role was finally understood). There were also brands that most of the international panel selecting the winner did not know: Duer, Finisterre and Ternua were classic examples. As the judges will acknowledge – they might be good, but they cannot know everything. At an event like the forthcoming show, retailers can make up their own minds about these brands without having to just rely on one-way promotional messages.
Normally the autumn sees the European Outdoor Group host a meeting of minds at the European Outdoor Summit. This is an event where the industry gets away from the pressures of selling and sorts out the bigger issues. I have been lucky to attend both the EOS (and its forerunner, the European Outdoor Forum, which Annecy’s Outdoor Sports Valley started), where the true role of a trade organization comes through. The EOF was where the Sustainability Working Group of the EOG used to meet the day before all the CEOs came together for the main sessions. Since then, the SWG has been taken up by specialists within the trade body. However, it created the vibe of how the industry does work together on pre-competitive subjects. Rather than everyone repeating each other’s work (at individual cost), the best were pooling resources and efforts to create headway through the fog of new subjects. At the EOS, I first comprehended what blockchain was (and whether it was worth concentrating on by having open discussions with both the subject authorities and my peers).
The Munich show will combine the two events, but the real value in it will be to win over retail in particular. Having the bigger issues be disseminated down will be the reason the industry turns up but having the opportunity to align with those exhibitors who best meet the profile that retailers want to offer will be the most valuable takeaway from the event. As with the wisdom gained from attending a first trade show for a year and a half – you can forge a partnership face-to-face that will enable the strongest raison d’être to be created.
There is much change going on within the industry, accelerated by the speed of the virtual. Recycled materials/ Single Use Packaging/ It’s Great Out There lobbying/ the European Week of Sport with the Outdoor Celebration Day/ EOCA’s new theme of Wild For Nature are all subjects that will form conversations when the industry gathers.
Sport 2000 have already confirmed their attendance in October; they recognize the value of collaborations. Now is the opportunity for other retailers to secure their place in the sales chain as the eyes and ears of how product is being accepted – a vital role that brands do not always appreciate. The EOG knows that the customer-facing part of the process is where the concentration needs to be.