Inside the outdoor industry

OUTDOOR 2018: The review

Thoughts on this year's final (?) Friedrichshafen event


The show that started as a rebel break-off from Messe Munich’s Summer ISPO as OutDoor brands did not think that that the main city of Bavaria was offering what they wanted. For a couple of years both shows happened within a month of each other, but the Swabian city had won popularity with the European Outdoor Group – the driving force behind the trade exhibition.

The new contract was put to a vote of the membership of the EOG (around 100 brands plus with some retailers); and the clear majority opted for the location with more convenient transport routes post the final contender selection announced at ISPO this spring

The take-away theme of the show was of Corporate Social Responsibility being applied holistically. Since the start of the decade Sustainability has become obvious in product terms, but at this show it had become an established norm of product portfolios.

Fair’s fair

What was obvious at this show was the amount of resource that the established brands have put into the other aspects of CSR, especially in terms of welfare of the people in the process. Fair Wear Foundation’s influence is the new baseline and it is expected to grow in the future as a new Chair is appointed to the organisation. The other big debating point was that initiated by Primaloft which has driven to the heart of the plastics-in-the-ocean matter. The insulation brand hosted a speed-dating experience (left) whe re members of the press could interview an array of both brand members and associated characters – including both Antje von Dewitz (CEO of Vaude) and the top person from Sporthaus Schuster: Rainer Angstl.

It is always a qualm to have characters who are not employed by the brand to host direct questions on a one-to-one basis, but the trust that the American brand demonstrated was well rewarded. Primaloft could find themselves as the passive participants in the debate around micro-filaments, or could be seen putting a more informed stand-point into the public domain – this they did by hosting the event which highlighted how their ‘Relentlessly Responsible’ campaign now has enabled them to use 100 per cent post-consumer recycled fill

Both Primaloft and Polartec have become more involved than most of the industry in the big debate. This is not because of the increased publicity of the matter through the broadcast of Blue Planet 2 six months ago, but so that a set of facts can be circulated on the subject – most of the current information was initiated by opinion from Marine Biologists. Polartec reaching 100 per cent PCR for their Power Fill Insulation, whilst Primaloft doing the same for both Silver and Black insulations.

Gary Smith, the Polartec CEO has raised his profile this year by taking part in Open Panels and presentations at both the last Performance Days, Munich, and the forthcoming Functional Fabric Fair, NYC; whilst Mike Joyce of Primaloft has made no secret of its collaborations to push the sustainability agenda up both the Performance and Fashion Ingredient buying agenda.

In one way the outdoor industry should be proud that the work that has been initiated in its field in terms of the acceptance of both BlueSign and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Higg Index as the starting points for material selection for the wider market. There will always be those brands who will lead on low cost over quality, but the traits from the now-purchasing Gen Z are that they want their brands to have values that they agree with and responsible practise is one of those.

Wooly thinking

The best example of holistic practice was the rise of the influence of wool. Both the synthetic specialist brands above use wool in some of their product range (Gary Smith stated at PD, Munich, that wool was the most comfortable material that you could wear next to your skin). In recent years the EOG has pushed the woollen agenda and now the Responsible Wool Standard exists – although its adoption has been far slower than the Textile Exchange’s Responsible Down Standard. This might be because there has not been a damaging expose of poor practise (mulesing has already been effectively stopped as welfare of the animals has risen up the agenda over the last decade), but also because the wool supply chain has more partners than the Down version and there is resistance (especially from smaller farms like those found in the UK) to pay such a high price for a provenance system that many consider to be set at a lower standard than already applies.

HD WoolFar more attention is being paid the possibility than a form of BlockChain might be more suitable to allow for increased transparency. Wool had its own zone at ISPO and it was the GreenRoomVoice inspirational area that further detailed the interest in the natural fibre. GRV is a poster area outside the main halls & never fails to raise interest from participants – their effect of Hall A4 at ISPO helped make it the place to visit

Wool is coming off the back of several influences: the rise of Merino has prompted the reconsideration of the fibre with a younger generation who had only used synthetic base-layers; the increased recognition that BioMimicry is the way forward (but why try to copy nature when you can use the real thing); as well as the qualms around there being more weight of plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050. Most impressive was the HD Wool stand that is promoting the use of wool as an insulation fibre that has one of the highest permeabilities of any insulation, as well as effective smell control, whilst retaining the position that it had a century ago (thinking back to Mallory and Irwin) as the most effective mountaineering insulation.

Rainer Angstl pointed out that the Swiss Wool insulation used by Ortovox made it the second most popular attraction of level 4 in his store! Wool developments have been applied as the product becomes lighter weight and more stable in the wash cycle. The most curious observation was that wool micro-filaments are not being found at sewage exit pipes into the sea, whilst all the other clothing fibres are; the line of thought behind this is that the fibres that have been shed start dissolving in the surfactants found in the drainage systems before it even reaches the waste water treatment plants

Overall the figures that the European Outdoor Group reported showed an increase in both number of units sold and the value of those units over the last winter – of eight per cent in both categories through the winter period. Apparel is still half the value of the Outdoor market and though sales of tents might have decreased – explained by the poor weather at the start of the summer season (and Britain has had a jump in all-round sales) the figures for 2017 are twice those of previous years. The management of the trade body is changing with the news of the successor to the current Secretary General is working out their notice, so Mark Held has agreed to stay on for another year – part time – to facilitate a smooth handover

The missing

The easiest place to start is news from what was NOT at the show.

Berghaus and Columbia – the barometer brands on both sides of the Atlantic were missing. Both companies were quoting a change of policy for having no stand

Moon, Amaterrace, Concept iii, were also no-shows (the former was because they were not keen to commission a new stand if the show was going to change location); whilst the latter reflected that Ingredient brands have found the timing of the show not to be suitable as offers so much more. Black Yak, having now established their presence in Europe, were working towards further supporting their retailers as opposed to winning over new accounts

Two brands that represent the AthLeisure styling better than any of those who did take a stand in Swabia as the thrust of their work is direct sales, but are also known to use Independent retailers were also not present: Christopher Raeburn & Finisterre

Clo Insulation, a small British project investigating more permeable waddings have made interesting developments with fleece

As far as the show was concerned this was the 25th (and last at Messe Friedrichshafen). Next year the summer OutDoor show will be staged at Messe Munich (which will also be the base for the forthcoming Performance Days Europe). The organisers of the Friedrichshafen show have plans afoot for something else, but as they are still contracted to the EOG exhibition these will be announced next month; meanwhile Messe Munich provided a briefing for OutDoor by ISPO 2019 this week. Those that are wise think that the Friedrichshafen announcement might also have something to do with the fact that since EuroBike has been moved forward (to during school term period) their popular public days have been dropped – so the August Bank Holiday weekend might become a Consumer show; something that the EOG has previously expressed interest in supporting

News of shows have been rocked as it has been announced that the London Boat Show will NOT happen in 2019; whilst both Henri Lloyd & Rockport have demonstrated that even the most prestigious of brands can be wound up

Anyway, to news from the show….

Vaude – the number one company for the FairWearFoundation standard alongside having 98 per cent of its clothing meet the Green Shape criteria (75 per cent of products for the whole range), a direction that was started in 2008. It has taken on board everything stated about micro-filaments in the environment and stands by its choice of materials as long lasting and not-evil. The work that it has done with integrating 12 immigrant employees into its HQ manufacturing facility is something the company is proud of

Sporthaus Schuster, the biggest single site sports retailer in Munich will be expanded once the summer is over to add 25 per cent more floor space and bring the projected footfall to closer to 2 million people than the population of the city each year. Known for not using the POS of the brands the store will champion three brands through particular project areas: Patagonia for the repairing of product, Vaude for the recycling when the product has worn out, & Houdini for the ability to compost the waste product. The new café will not use single-use plastic, instead they will be supporting a local start-up: ReCup

Black Diamond were showing a 48-gm windproof garment, using the new YKK zip, set into a mesh zip tape

HydroFlask’s CEO Mike Wallenfels concentrated on the experience he gained whilst at apparel brands demonstrated that alongside the right product it was key to have the right team handling them, to the extend of even holding back product launch or cutting down on the options of the product itself in following a Striking Simplicity mantra

Polygiene’s new CEO, Ulrike Bjoerk, is planning a campaign based on how Nature Works Better, the confidence in the direction coming from her experiences as the CFO at both IKEA and Stena Link

Sympatex was brave enough to challenge the industry with its next advertising campaign centred on the possible destruction of the beautiful environment that outdoor product buyers like to enjoy; whilst Goretex reported how adoption of its PFC-free DWR was stronger than predicted when it first suggested the product. Marmot is still showing the direction with PFC-free DWRs in operation

The European Conservation Association announced that it has planted just over the 2 million tree target it set itself in 2016, many in areas to rebuild natural features and stop soil erosion. In the 12 years that it has existed it has supported 105 projects in 53 countries to an accumulative total of €2.45m. The public voting for the next projects to be supported resulted in over 125,000 new visitors to

The Conference programme running alongside the exhibition has become a major attraction of the event (whether closed group or public meetings) and featured updates on MicroFibres (information on biodegradability of BioSynthetics) and the Rozalia Project (better known as the Cora Ball used in laundry), Introductory + Advanced sessions on BioSynthetics; the Higg Index improvements from the SAC, and such like. The roll out of the Higg to become a consumer facing comparison scale will happen at some of the leading brands during 2020, but it is hoped that consumer legislation supporting it will be in place by 2025

The Sustainability Breakfast no longer exists. Seemingly it was unsustainable. But as sustainability has been integrated into all aspects of the European Outdoor Group – it has become the EOG Breakfast. The influence of the sustainability charter being adopted throughout the trade association has now seen the Scandinavian Outdoor Group, the British OIA, and the French OSV adopt similar practice

Is the industry in a better place for the developments previewed at Outdoor 18? Certainly! Consumer spending is up, innovation is still evolving, and the leadership has a vision to maintain.

Lots could be done better – but there are those who are concentrating more on making progress rather than sitting around and complaining.

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