ispo Summer ’03: An Early Look At New Trends

The ispo summer 03 trade show ran with German precision, drawing 1,210 exhibitors from 44 countries and more than 30,000 attendees to the New Munich Trade Fair—no small feat considering the listless German economy and the fact that the June 29 to July 1 show was moved up by nearly a month from last summer’s dates.


While the total number of visitors was slightly lower than last year, ispo management says the quality of visitors was correspondingly higher. “We had huge changes with this show, and we didn’t know what to expect, but for us and for the industry, it was better than expected, says ispo Exhibition Director Peter Knoll. “The retailer quality and the general mood at the show was really good.

The show itself is a spectacle that boggles the mind and taxes the feet with its sheer diversity and size. The convention center, located at the end of the U2 subway line—which like all Munich public transportation was free to ispo badge holders—encompasses 2.7-million square feet. (The San Diego Convention Center, by comparison, is 1.75-million square feet.) The ispo show is broken down into twelve nearly stand-alone “communities, including bike, fitness, footwear, kids, outdoor, racket, boardsports, style, surf, team sports, textrend, and women.


It’s quite a swirl, but the surf industry is clearly the backbone of the best portion of the show. Walking through the edifice-complex booths of the footwear hall or the sterile pop-up sameness of the Asian OEM aisles was oppressive. The boardsport hall had vibe and verve. You could easily imagine a head-honcho buyer from some huge sporting-good chain stumbling into the hall and being amazed at the Billabong, O’Neill, or Quiksilver booths. It would be a revelation to many of the hundreds of Eastern European buyers who attended the show for the first time this year.

Exhibiting companies included Quiksilver, O’Neill, Billabong, Oakley, Rusty, Redsand, Element, Gotcha, Roxy, Hawk Clothing, Spy Optics, Globe and Gallaz, Nixon, Dragon, Nikita, Carhartt, JimmyZ, Chiemsee, Vans, Protest, and many others.


Through various European distributors, many other brands were also represented at the show. For example, through Urban Supplies Distribution the latest from DC Shoes, Zero, Element Skateboards, and World Industries were at ispo. R.O.U.G.H Distribution debuted the lines from IPath, éS, Aesthetics, Sanük, Grind King, Record, and Osiris.

For U.S. retailers, ispo is an opportunity to get a sneak peek at the majors’ new lines literally months before the U.S. trade events, and identify the differences between the European and U.S. market. Plus, if U.S. retailers were willing to try something new, they could find more than a few completely fresh brands to the U.S. market, including Chiemsee, Protest, Insight, and more.

According to Dietmar Damith, Chiemsee’s marketing and license manager, this summer’s ispo show was a success: “We had good and interesting meetings with important key accounts. We met dealers we have been after for a long time. The timing was good—maybe one or two weeks later would have be great. Unfortunately, the small dealers were missing and the international visitors.

He says 70 percent of Chiemsee’s turnover is in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, with England, Spain, Greece, and Japan the next areas for growth.

Barbara Van Bergen, marketing manager of the Netherlands-based brand Protest, said the timing of the show was initially a concern: “Our designers had to work hard to get everything ready in time—having the show a month earlier made it difficult to get all the samples ready—but luckily everything went okay.

“The ispo show was surprisingly good, says Lupo, sales manager at Rusty Europe. “There were a lot of customers who came in from Austria. The German guys are pretty stoked, too. ispo is always good for the retailers to get their impression of which brands are hot.


Like many, Lupo was worried that becaause of the earlier show dates, his line wouldn’t be ready. “It surprised me, he says. “It worked out really good.

Indeed, whether you were getting a handle on new trends at events like O’Neill’s slick fashion show, the WGSN-sponsored Color Forum, or Label Networks’ presentation of the first-ever European Boardsports Retailer Study, ispo provided probably the earliest view of the 2004 market. Even Billabong International CEO Derek O’Neill was spotted browsing the Billabong racks—seeing a few items from the ’04 line for the first time there on the show floor.

According to exhibitors, despite its size and reach, ispo is not a pan-European show. The majority of attendees are from the Northern and Eastern European countries, with local German retailers being best represented. Some compare ispo to the MAGIC show in Las Vegas, which also appeals to buyers beyond the surf-skate-snow world.

Of course, what would a trade show be without some late-night carousing? Board ispo Community Night was a big party ispo threw on the first night of the show. Actually it started in the afternoon with an Aussie—style barbecue that continued well into the wee hours, with drink tickets given out like candy.

The ispo winter 04 show will take place February 1—4. Log on to for more information.—By Sean O’Brien, John Maynard, Saba Haider, and Trey Cook





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