Insight Update

Trade show…must go

Ah, Bournemouth, now those were the days. How the UK trade loved heading down to the BIC twice a year. And then there was Olympia and EXSL, where the big guns turned on the stand-building power and turned up with their sponsored footballers, cricketers and other athletes to showcase all that was good and glorious about the national industry. A trip to Blackpool was also on the cards as a northern focus was called for, along with a thoroughly good time. Indeed, those were the days.

For the more enterprising, there was ispo twice a year (spring and autumn), which required a very expensive trip to Germany and a jaw dropping world featuring wall to wall Olympians in the first hall (no prizes for guessing the brand exhibiting there), a bus to get around the show and beer. Lots of it. Which was always a good thing.

It didn’t cost all that much more to make an annual pilgrimage to Chicago. But the holy grail of all sports trade shows had to be Atlanta, which held a very super show indeed. The sight of the ‘Ask me’ girls (only in America!) waiting to provide endless helpful information resulted in the annual Umbro wind-up: “Who won the World Cup in 1966?” never failing to leave the promotional beauty at a loss for an answer. And the endless queues to see sporting heroes and head home with an autograph – between brand presentations and some pretty great food and fun for good measure.

But of all these from the past 20 years or so, one show now remains – ispo.

Who could imagine how this show would evolve? How many groundbreaking products would emerge and industry opinion leaders develop their careers with ispo?
Take a look for yourself at some of those highlights: click here

Now having celebrated its 40th year and about to open its doors for the 71st time, the Munich event stands stronger than ever, bucking trends that have seen shows head the way of the tar pits and some declare the international industry in ‘commercial crisis’. Not in these halls, that’s for sure.

After four days the 2010 ispo closed its doors with excellent statistics. Over 64,000 international visitors from 117 countries for starters, which was a new visitor record and represents an increase of close to seven per cent on the previous year. 68 per cent of visitors (a further increase) came from outside of Germany, with the UK and Ireland among those countries showing greater attendance. 2,045 exhibitors from 45 countries registered for ispo – an increase of five per cent across 15 halls. And the UK’s FSPA took a record-size group of performance sports brands to the show, hosting a strongly branded area for them and working with UKTI to help a considerable number of other UK exhibitors get on the export ladder.

What ispo realised and has had at the heart of its ethos under the direction of Tobias Groeber is the fact that the show needed to adapt to global needs. The show had already developed into a more modern, visitor friendly version by introducing individual communities to the hall plan. Retailers can head to what is almost a ‘show within a show’, accessing outdoor ispo or performance ispo, for example, where the exhibitor portfolio reflects what it says on the label. But ispo has taken this even further of late.

Today’s ispo is a representation of everything that the modern retailer, or the traditional business, needs to reference. Time was that one of the most exciting features was the renowned Converse fashion show. 20 years on and this vibrancy extends into a range of showcases for everything from wearable technologies (think Mp3s and more) to Textrends (a home for intelligent fibres and fabric stories), metropol:ispo, where the street meets sport, to ispovision, where designer collaborations and edgy creativity can be found. And that’s just for starters. With its information packed website and use of social media (@ispoUKnews), the show is engaging on all levels – and all year round.

The show has worked hard to inform retailers as always through product trends and innovations. But it has also in recent years become an inspiration – encouraging retailers to take time away from four walls and a till to discover new ideas and opportunities. Whether that is sourcing own-label or discovering the commercial power of visual merchandising at the Shape Your Shop summit. Rather like Disneyland, ispo needs to be experienced – you have to engage with the spirit of the show. It’s a case of walking round even where you think you may find no relevance – you will be surprised at what you can see that may add to your business.

This is the place to forge international retail friendships and learn from mutual experiences. It’s where to find new distributors or where to find something to distribute. Jobs, creativity, information. The show has it. Forget language barriers too, and, whatever you may think, Germans do have a sense of humour – they even have a Comedy Ambassador right here in Britain (

We Brits love to stick together and ispo has always provided a great social aspect for us to make the most of. Those who remember way back to the days of Regina’s bar may also remember many great British get togethers, the Munich Moth and those much loved impressions of ‘the invisible man’ by another colourful industry character. It’s all still going on, the camaraderie alongside the commercial wooing.

For many, an industry without a national show is a sad affair and internationally ispo has been cleverly building a reputation as the trade show for all people. Let’s face it, the cost of getting to Munich is now comparable to a trip to London or Manchester. And the city is nothing short of spectacular in terms of things to do and see outside the exhibition centre walls.

Whatever your interest, Munich is definitely no small beer – and whatever your sports business, ispo is no small beer either.

If you haven’t visited for a while, prepare to be both exhausted and energised at the same time. ispo’s halls are vast, but it’s well worth the journey and if it’s not one of your ‘things to do this year”, what can we say but ‘put it on the list’.

ispo takes place from February 6-9. For more details, exhibitor news and visitor tickets visit

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