I am not long back from the annual ISPO winter sports trade fair which takes place in Munich every year around the end of January.
This is a chance for anyone involved in the Outdoor business to get a look at what is coming onto the market next winter, discuss local market requirements and develop contacts and relationships with people who might otherwise be just a name at the end of a press release or email.
For a small Irish company like Charles Camping this is a rare and welcome opportunity to look beyond a local perspective, into the collective crystal ball and try to figure emerging trends for coming seasons in the outdoor marketplace.
This show allows us to plan our range for the winter of 2019. We can consolidate the brands that we deal with already and look at new previously unconsidered brands that may have caught the eye whilst strolling around the halls of the Messe Muenchen showgrounds. For manufacturers it is a last or not quite last chance to draw the attention of buyers; bring new customers onto their stands and focus the attention of existing customers who may be encouraged to expand their ranges.
As the largest show of its kind in Europe it is not surprising that ISPO draws a very large crowd indeed; 2800 exhibitors took space and over 84,000 visitors passed through the doors over the four days of the fair. Manufacturers come from China, Pakistan, USA, and dozens of other countries and buyers come from every imaginable corner of Europe and often beyond.
One a personal level the show not only lets me make final decisions on ranging for winter 2019 but in the area of footwear gives me a chance to look at what is being worked on for years up to 2021. Th early CADs and prototypes can often be a bit rough but the concepts being worked on are sometimes brilliant.
For delivery in September of 2018 most orders have to be done and dusted in February making the weeks following the return from Munich a bit hectic. For manufacturers though this period is even more hectic. Order patterns may mean that factory production of some items has to be increased whilst other things, which may have failed to generate sufficient orders get scrapped completely. I am currently a beneficiary of this as I am wandering around Blessington these days in a very warm, prototype jacket that will never be seen on the shop floor anywhere as the combination of style, price and performance just wasn’t popular enough.
For the coming year there don’t appear to be too many surprises coming along. Most companies appear to be consolidating existing lines and focussing on improvements in quality. Designs are being tweaked rather than radically changed. Here are some of my takeaways from ISPO 2018.
Waterproof fabrics are always a big part of the show and this was no exception. Gore have been under a bit of pressure recently as technological change moves the industry forward and have responded to the challenge of OutDry fabric in clothing with their own external membrane technology. The new “Active” fabric is amazingly light and the external membrane is way better than existing PTFE technology. Current jackets though are aimed firmly at the running and cycling markets and are not recommended for hillwalking as the durability of the new fabric is likely to be relatively poor. One Gore staffer said that they were not ideal for regular use with a rucksack. Columbia continue to introduce the external OutDry membrane to more clothing and footwear than before and one jacket to look out for is the newest ultra-light shell gear which will be coming soon under both the Columbia and Montrail brand names.
For more info on waterproof rainwear check out this article on the Charles Camping website.
Without a doubt there is a huge amount of effort going on in the area of keeping warm. Where Down is being used manufacturers are trying to be as ethically correct as they can but in a change from the past, there is a major effort underway to produce higher quality synthetic fillings to compete with Down. Primaloft are the biggest name in this field but lots of others are also working in the same area and their products can be found in most of the major brands including Berghaus, Columbia, Mtn Hardwear, TNF and Salewa among others.
When I first visited back in the Stone Age, ISPO was all about skiing. Wintersports now is less than half of the entire show and both Outdoor and Lifestyle Sports have expanded to become a more important part of goings on. Skiing and Snowboarding are still important but as the numbers of people going on snow holidays declines so do the number of companies servicing the sector. Some of the biggest names were conspicuous by their absence here this year and barring a major winter climate shift coupled with a noticeable increase in disposable income this is a trend that is unlikely to change.
Even the biggest companies in the field of Mountaineering and ice climbing are pretty small companies. Household names (well in some households) like Scarpa and Black Diamond are tiny in comparison to their equivalents in the Electronics, Motor or Engineering business. Those companies which are not the biggest can often be little more than one man band operations. It was sometimes surprising to realise that the person chatting to me over the table wasn’t only the CEO but the chief engineer and five percent of the total workforce of a high profile climbing equipment company. This gives the Climbing hall a pretty relaxed, old school atmosphere.
For a sad, footwear geek like myself the one and only entry for most amazing tech innovation goes to Superfeet/HP and Brooks running. A system that can scan your feet, analyse your gait and have a pair of insoles or running shoes manufactured to order at minimal extra cost absolutely blew me away. Currently on test in a dozen or so stores in the US it will be introduced into Europe by Superfeet once all the regulatory requirements are satisfied. Watch this space.
Thanks to all the brands who hosted me at ISPO this year. For your time as well as the coffee, food, coffee, beer, coffee and coffee. I appreciate it.
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