The mood at Ispo Munich, which ends Wednesday after three days, is varied but confident, reflecting the challenges of the current situation in retail and in the industry. In other words, there is uncertainty yet optimism.
Many came to the German trade show, which reopened on Monday for the first time after a forced break of almost three years, with mixed feelings. "I'm really excited to see how it's going to be," says Otto Leodolter, managing director of Löffler at the very beginning of the event. Even before the start of the fair, it was clear that it would be different from previous editions. About 1,500 exhibitors from 55 countries announced their participation on this occasion. That is about half as many as in January 2019 (2,943 exhibitors) and January 2020 (more than 2,800 exhibitors). Instead of twelve fully occupied A and B halls, there were only six this time, in addition to four C halls reserved for themes such as sourcing, textile trends and health.
Many big brands across all categories including apparel, hardware, ski, and outdoor, were absent. And while labels such as Bogner, Mammut and Columbia did not attend, the stands of brands like Jack Wolfskin, Vaude, Patagonia, Scott, Maloja, Gore-Tex and Schöffel were all the more popular. It quickly became clear that the event was nevertheless busy and cheerful. Not only at the stands but also in the event areas and at the lecture platforms. The conclusion: the desire to finally get together again and experience the industry in person is strong.
Slump in consumption hits sports and outdoor industry
The industry is currently facing major challenges. Although many brands and retailers have withstood the pandemic successfully, some even brilliantly, many are now being hit by the continuing reluctance to make purchases while costs are simultaneously rising. In addition, autumn was too warm in many places, and the classic themes relating to weather protection did not perform well. "Nobody knows what the next season will bring," says Peter Räuber, CEO of Maloja. If winter sports become (even) more expensive due to rising prices of mountain railways and hotels, many expect that people will be more likely to cut back on equipment and not buy new products. "Especially for families, winter sports are increasingly becoming a luxury," says Ingo Jost, director Central Europe of the Finnish L-Fashion Group, which includes the brands Icepeak and Luhta. A lot of merchandise has already accumulated in stores and many assume that the situation will not improve in the coming weeks. This is always a risk.
Demand for shorter lead times
Ingo Jost believes fewer and fewer children may find their way into sports if the products become increasingly expensive. Moreover, the young target group prefers different sales channels. "I'm convinced that the younger target groups are not yet buying enough from specialist retailers," Jost said. The latter, he says, must become more attractive and, above all, move closer to demand. "Winter merchandise is hitting the stores at a time when many are not even thinking about winter sports yet." This is an issue that the industry needs to address collectively, he said. Many also see longer lead times as problematic. The sports and outdoor industry has long been aware that its comparatively long lead times are a risk as they make it difficult to act in an agile, demand-driven manner. During the pandemic, when demand for outdoor products exploded, they couldn't even keep up with the production of goods. Nowadays, the sluggish supply chain prevents unnecessary goods from not being produced in the first place.
The most important trend: Sustainability
The major overriding trend in the industry continues to be sustainability. While clothing brands in particular have been working towards sustainability in recent years, an increasing number of footwear brands and hardware suppliers are now also moving in this direction: from skis made partly from Spinnova fibres by Pusu, to headlamps with a casing made from hemp blend by Silva, to sneakers with undyed and partly recycled wool as well as a sole made from 31 per cent FSC-certified natural rubber by Icebug. The innovation-driven sports and outdoor industry had some new developments in store.
New Fibre Combinations
Of course, this also applies to clothing manufacturers. The Italian knitwear specialist UYN, for one, presented sports underwear made of 100 percent regenerative, biological-based materials. The innovative blend of fibres: Kapok, biolight yarn (made from beech cellulose), flexicorn (a spandex alternative derived from corn) and natex (made from the castor bean plant). "The great thing is: these fibres are superior to petroleum-based fibre in terms of strength, drying speed and breathability," says Marco Redini, CEO of UYN.
Tencel also presented a prototype of a seamless yoga set consisting of a shirt and a pair of leggings made entirely of Tencel and Tencel Luxe, Tencel's new filament fibre.
Colours: Brown and shades of red are trending
The colour trends were, as always, similar to those in fashion: nude shades are as popular as ever, along with earthy colours and, simultaneously, bright pink in combination with red or orange. The flashier the better, was the motto here. Brown was a really strong theme as well among the products on display. The colour was not only shown by progressive snowboard and free-ski brands such as Picture Organic Clothing or Scott, but also by outdoor icons such as Jack Wolfskin. However, it remains to be seen whether retailers will also find the colour suitable for sports.
Focus on versatility
And another theme popped up in many collections: Versatility. Whereas in the past, products were designed for just one kind of sport, many brands are now developing products that serve more than one purpose and can be used in a variety of ways. On the one hand, manufacturers are responding to a growing awareness among environmentally conscious customers who want to consume less, while also catering to shoppers who, especially in difficult times like these, are trying to save money.
This article was originally published on FashionUnited.de and has been translated and edited into English.