From February 5 to February 9, the International Trade Fair For Sports Equipment And Fashion took place in Munich, Germany. This fifty-sixth ISPO was the largest sport show in the world, and as before it united sports-industry officials, manufacturers, retailers, and journalists. The broad focus of ISPO encompasses the world of sports with a strong accent on action sports, boardsports, and–of course–skateboarding. Three of the sixteen halls making up the show belonged to so-called Board ISPO (surfing, skateboarding, and snowboarding).
Despite the worldwide drop in air travel and the impending Winter Olympic Games, 1,584 exhibitors from 76 countries came to Munich. With 53,609 total “visits,” it is estimated that some 15,000 to 20,000 persons attended the show in four days. Europeans, including local German visitors, made up about 81 percent of the crowd, while visitors from the U.S. accounted for less than two percent, the same amount as people from East Asia. Eastern European countries are traditionally well represented at ISPO, as was the case this time around.
ISPO this year included a large number of skate-shoe and softgoods companies, including Airwalk, DVS, éS, Etnies, Emerica, Hawk, Globe, Osiris, Vision, Circa, DC, Vans, Hawk, Reef, Alphanumeric, Savier, Billabong, Rusty, Volcom, Sessions, Alien Workshop, Droors, Elwood, Ezekiel, Matix, Protest, Shorty’s, Split, and Zoo York. A number of hardgoods brands were also represented, including Birdhouse, Element, enjoi, G&S, Habitat, Santa Cruz, Sector 9, Spitfire, and Vision.
Not only strong snowboard/skateboard companies like Santa Cruz and World Industries, but also pure snow-industry companies Burton, Salomon, and Rossignol presented their snowskates. Premier, Salomon, and Burton also participated in an on-snow demo organized by ISPO and Intersport in Oberstdorf, Germany, right after the show.
A couple of traditionally non-skate companies have also gotten into skateboard manufacturing. Following Killer Loop, Italian in-line company Roces is the latest to join the skateboard party. On the bright side, it seems like Europe is finally cured of its strong scooter infection, as the toys have practically disappeared from the halls.
For European brands, ISPO is the natural choice when deciding where to present new products. For U.S. brands, it’s the logical venue for presenting new products to the international markets. “We’ve been exhibiting at ISPO for the last five years or so,” says Sole Technology International Marketing Director Patrice Fernandez. “Europe is a very strong market for us, so it gives us an opportunity to exhibit our products while working closely with our distributors and retailers. It’s also a good opportunity for us to meet new potential retailers.”
Larger companies have permanent representation in Europe, but U.S.-based staff members make the trip to see firsthand how retailers react to their new lines. “We have various distributors in Europe that show our many brand’s product,” says NHS Marketing Director Jeff Kendall. “They control the distribution channels, but we encourage them to focus mainly on skate shop/’core accounts.”
Even ISPO veterans are eager to open new accounts, and ISPO for them serves as a perfect place to learn about emerging markets. California-based Vision Skateboards attended ISPO during the company’s heydays in the 80s, and has again been attending consistently since 1995. “Most of our distributors from Europe come to the show, and it gives us a good opportunity to show our new products and also meet them in person,” says Vision Vice President Of Overseas Sales Tom Torgerson. “In regards to the shops, we always refer them to our distributors. Our German distributor has staff at our stand to handle German shops.”
The mix of company reps and European-distributor staff in the booths gives ISPO a distinct United Nations flair. Globe shoes, for instance, brings staff from its Australian and U.S. headquarters to mmix it up with European reps, and Sole Tech included U.S.-based R&D staff in its booth party, as well as Swiss, Italian, and Austrian distributors.
Fears that the further effects of the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. recession would manifest at ISPO proved false. Attendance and sales activity was up, and most skate companies report having a successful show. “There is always something to complain about–bad winter, war, et cetera,” says Rusty European Export Sales Manager Greg Hauswirth. “But we’re not focused on those things. Our industry continues to grow, and so do we.”
U.S.-based companies who show at both domestic and international trade shows like ISPO are able to compare and contrast the tendencies of each market, though Europe itself is a cornucopia of tastes and tendencies. “It’s impossible to compare European retailers to U.S. retailers, because Europe is compromised of so many countries of different environments: cultural, economic, political, geographic, et cetera,” says Sole Tech’s Fernandez. “Some countries are not doing as well as U.S. retailers, but some seem to be doing much better. The European retailers are definitely more price-driven than the U.S. retailers seem to be. There are different competitive forces in Europe, and many European apparel and snowboard-boot companies are able to satisfy both a product and pricing need for the retailers there.”
“European customers are more focused on details and have to be motivated to take the brand in their stores,” says Rusty’s Hauswirth. “The U.S. customers are basically stoked and know what they want.”
The Eastpack Soul Skate Invitational contest, sponsored by Etnies and Carhartt, was the hit of the fair. It lent an energetic focus to ISPO’s action-sports sector, and served as the common language that everyone there understood and appreciated. Winners included Giorgio Zattoni in the vert and vert-best-trick events, and Oli Burgin on the mini ramp. The Summer ISPO will be held August 3-6, 2002. Check out ispo.com for details.
Eastpack Soul Skate Invitational ResultsVert
1. Giorgio Zattoni
2. Ali Cairns
3. Terence Bougdour
1. Giorgio Zattoni
2. Ali Cairns
3. Jussi Korhonen
1. Oli Burgin
2. Hans Klaasen
3. Roman Hackl