It felt like Ispo at its best: Full exhibition halls, well-attended trade fair stands, a buzz of international voices. And the first snow was falling outside. The sporting goods trade fair kicked off the new order season for autumn/winter 2024 with a promising start.
More exhibitors, high internationality, lots on the programme
Following the motto "New Perspectives on Sports", Ispo Munich came to an end on Thursday evening – and there really was a lot to offer: Not only has the number of over 2,400 exhibitors from a wide variety of sectors increased enormously since the last event (2022: 1,500 exhibitors), but the internationality of the exhibitors also testifies to the appeal of the trade fair. Compared to the previous year, 57 percent more exhibitors took part. Of these, 93 percent were from abroad. "The trade fair was very well attended this year. It was very busy, very full, and I was very pleased with that. We had the opportunity to talk to a lot of people. That's very good, it's more than we expected," said Stijn van Hees, director marketing Europe and Global Wholesale at outerwear brand Fjällräven.
The trade fair's extensive informational and inspirational programme, which took place on a total of ten stages and throughout special areas, also had a lot to offer. "I am happy because the transformation of Ispo Munich is in full swing," said Stefan Rummel, CEO of Messe München Group, organisers of Ispo, when speaking on the positive results. "We are delighted that our trade fair is also being recognised worldwide as the place to be for the sports industry. This is reflected in the high level of interest shown by foreign exhibitors and the enthusiasm of visitors and speakers from all over the world."
Classic winter sports were missing
And yet it was also clear that Ispo is different than it used to be before the pandemic. Not only because the trade fair no longer filled the entire exhibition centre, as was the case in 2019. Only three halls were occupied in each of the main halls A and B, compared to six in the past. The scheduling has also changed, with only three days instead of four, and without Sunday, which is actually important for many small retailers. However, the biggest change over the past three days has been in the winter sports segment with the ski, cross-country and snowboard areas. What used to be the backbone of Winter Ispo and filled many halls with clothing, hardware and accessories was almost completely absent this time.
New outdoor and new target groups
The focus of the trade fair shifted to outdoor, and not only because winter sports were missing during the pandemic. Outdoor has now more than ever become a year-round category. In the past, the segment was primarily regarded as a summer occasion, which is why the associated trade fair only ever took place during this time. However, the pandemic has contributed to the fact that more and more people want to be outdoors and need the right equipment for this in summer and winter. "Outdoor and sports have grown since the pandemic and have attracted new target groups," explained Tobias Gröber, head of Ispo Group, in his speech on the Highsnobiety stage. "We have to finally accept that outdoor equipment is not only there to reach remote places, but it is also a fashion statement. So far there is no platform for this interaction. Highsnobiety and Ispo should be something like that."
This longing for the great outdoors and the search for new adventure spaces is fueling fashion, which even before the pandemic was taking a liking to sensational collaborations with traditional outdoor brands or declaring ‘gorpcore’ a new trend that is still going strong. This idea of "New Outdoor" manifested itself in many places at the trade fair, including in the co-operation with Highsnobiety and at the Zeitgeist Area, which was designed by Kristian W. Andersen. The former co-organiser of the Copenhagen International Fashion Fair (CIFF) brought together 18 brands that represent New Outdoor in the curated space, namely And Wander from Japan, Ciele from Canada, Berghaus from the UK and Elho from Switzerland. Zeitgeist is intended to be more than just trade fair inspiration. "I don't think anyone lives in a box and only does one sport or the other; if you play basketball, you still go camping too - everything belongs together," said Andersen. "We want to bring people together, introduce the outdoor theme to new retailers and show traditional retailers new outdoor brands." He can also imagine making guest appearances with the entire concept in department stores and implementing pop-up concepts.
New at the trade fair: Elho and Plein Sports
The new perspective on sport found many fans. Elho, for example, clearly felt at home in the Zeitgeist Area during the relaunch: "This is the world where design and cool style come together with outdoor. And that's where we want to be. We are here to revitalise an old brand, a legendary brand, but we want to do it in a new way, a modern way. . It's a very cool start. People really understand the message, the products, what we want to show, the mood we want to convey. It's so much more than what we expected," explained Donald Schneider, creative director and founder at Elho.
For Philipp Plein there was also no alternative to Ispo. "Which other sports trade fair can be compared to Ispo?" asked Plein. He presented his new sports line Plein Sport in Munich, which was launched last year and is now set to take off internationally. Plein plans to open around 35 stores in the coming months. In contrast to the high-fashion line, however, Plein is pursuing a more commercial strategy with Sport, with entry-level prices for sneakers of around 90 euros. Plein also wants to dock onto the Intersport marketplace.
Sustainability in many facets
As in previous years, the overarching theme of the trade fair was sustainability. As a result, many of the brands' innovations primarily focussed on improved sustainability solutions. UPM presented the first polyester fleece made partly from wood at the Vaude stand. To further expand the project, the international company is currently building a new production facility in Leuna to meet the growing demand for bio-based raw materials for the textile industry. While Vaude produces fleece from wood, merino specialist Icebreaker presented "real" fleece, namely with a jacket made from high-pile pure wool and lined with Tencel.
"Our aim is to use more and more natural fibres and eliminate synthetic fibres," says Josh Vaughan, EMEA general manager at Icebreaker. Houdini also had new fibres in its range and gave a first glimpse of a new shell series for freeride and mountaineering, which is currently still in development. The garment range will be made with the next generation of Polartec Power Shield, a 3-layer shell fabric made from Biolon, a renewable, non-GMO nylon derived from plants that has a 50 percent lower carbon footprint than virgin nylon-6,6 and is less reliant on fossil resources. "For a long time, many thought that more sustainable options would mean sacrificing performance, such as durability. Polartec has proven that this is not the case," said Ramesh Kesh, senior VP & business manager Polartec.