Trip Report from the OUTDOOR trade Show Friedrichshafen, Germany
17-20 June, 2017
Robert, Nathan and Richard from the CityROCK team went to visit the 24th OUTDOOR Trade Show in Friedrichshafen, Germany. The show is a phenomenal platform for manufacturers to showcase their range, current and upcoming, to importers and retailers from around the world. OUTDOOR is exclusively a business-to-business show, with only industry attendees present, so there were no direct sales to visitors, apart from bratwurst, beer and pretzels!
The show is spread out over 15 halls and covers 85,000 square with 965 exhibitors. That is 12 soccer fields! (The Cape Town CTICC by comparison is 11,200 m2). The area was buzzing due to the excitement and enthusiasm of the 21,500 visitors.
Finding accommodation within a 20km radius was impossible. The town of Friedrichshafen was overrun by the outdoor mob!
We discovered that the term “Outdoor” in “OUTDOOR Show” means everything to do with summer mountain sports – hiking, climbing, mountaineering, trail running, some water sports, and tons of clothing to match.
We walked many of the 15 halls the first day, just to get an overview of what was on offer. There must have been over 50 hiking boot manufacturers, 100 clothing companies. In our little climbing universe, we counted 21 different manufacturers of rock climbing shoes and 15 suppliers of grips. The show is Europe-focussed; the USA and Asia have a similar show at different times of the year.
Most companies typically exhibited their new 2018 product line-up, in anticipation of dealers placing orders for the next year. Noteworthy to us was Mammut, who has redesigned a few of their backpacks and come out with a completely new range of clothing which will suit everyone from the high alpine climber to the casual crag or gym climber. We noticed a similar trend with La Sportiva launching a new clothing range to match each of their shoe families – a suitable line of clothing for climbing, approach, hiking and trekking. The North Face chose to promote just their brand via their athletes, and not show off any new of products. This was rather unique.
For the next 3 days, we booked meetings with many different manufacturers to run us through their new products. Here are some climbing-specific highlights.
Wild Country was recently purchased by Oberalp, a large company based in the Dolomites in Italy.
Oberalp own multiple European brands, one of them being Salewa, and have deep pockets. This should see Wild Country making a really big mark in the climbing industry. The entire Wild Country product line has been redesigned, exciting stuff!
The Wild Country Revo belay device is knocking on climbers’ doors. Wild Country’s auto-locking device is going to make some serious waves on the climbing scene. Having played around with it at the show we can see why. It is compact, lightweight, extremely well manufactured and will lock in any direction, meaning you don’t have to worry about loading the rope in the wrong direction. Arrival has unfortunately been delayed and will now only reach SA in December 2017. Retailing at around R1,800, it will compete head-on with the new Petzl Gri Gri Plus.
Wild Country have also partnered with the Michelin Man to help get Michelin out of Formula 1 Racing and into a real sport – climbing! The Wild Country Meshuga Climbing shoes will be launched in 2018 and will have Michelin rubber moulded onto the shoe in a single piece. The shoes are the opposite weight of the big man, and will be super light and very flexible.
These shoes are going to be priced at the top end, i.e. you’ll need to take out a second mortgage to add these to your collection, so we are not sure if we will stock them.
Our friends from Evolv have some fantastic new models on the way; offering the same great quality and value for money that we have been enjoying from Evolv for almost a decade. The new Shakra and Supra models, and a revamped Defy, will be making their way onto our shelves within the next couple of months, with the Oracle, the General, the Agro and the X1 due for release early in 2018.
In the approach shoe range, we’ll see the Zender and the Rebel Revolt being released early in 2018 as well.
Next stop was DMM. We were able to take a closer look at DMM’s entire range, and man, do these guys have some of the best manufactured hardware on the planet! All manufactured at their factory in Wales. They have a real passion for great gear and it shows in every single piece they produce! We got to take a closer look at their new Dragon cams which are absolutely awesome. Lighter, sleeker, new TripleGrip design and extendable dyneema sling; all-in-all offering more bang for your buck.
We’ll see these making their way onto our shores and shelves within the next couple of months with pricing starting at around R1,200.
Metolius have heard the call for more space in your boulder pad to carry your stuff when walking to the crag! The Session Boulder pad will now have a bigger cover to allow the pad to be slightly separated when closed, so you can avoid turning your sandwiches into pancakes.
Mammut have a couple of additions to their hardware range. What really stuck out was their new Smart 2.0 belay device, with an added safety bracket to ensure the brake end of the rope is always held in the locked position. They’ve upgraded a few of their packs as well, and they’re looking pretty darn good! The Neon series has a new crag-pack with enough space for all your sport gear. It looks fantastic! With these due for release early 2018, we should see them on our shelves in due course.
Black Diamond introduced a range of 10 different climbing shoes, manufactured by Butora from Korea. The shoes look snazzy and well made. BD also added a range of ropes, this time manufactured by Tendon, a brand we’ve seen in SA before. The Black Diamond mantra is to be able to cover a climber head-to-toe in their brand and they’re certainly doing a good job of that! Both shoes and ropes will only be available in 2018, we will need to see if they will suit the pocket of our market.
Some funny things stood out:
Blue Ice launched a harness that weighs a mere 85g. Designed predominantly for alpine use, the “Chousas” is fully rated. We tried it on and it is not as uncomfortable as you might think. The Chousas won the Industry Award from the Trade Show judges. They probably just thought it looked like Lingerie.
We’ve also decided that should deep water soloing ever take off in SA, we’ll be bringing in some inflatable sail-boats (Ha ha ha!) for the occasional rescuing of this daring group of climbers. Water in the Western Cape permitting of course.
Probably half the trade show was clothing. Just about every major brand now has a clothing line in their portfolio, displaying a spectacular array of design, colour and technology.
Most of these clothing brands won’t make it to SA. The explanation for this is 3-fold. Firstly, we have a very high import duty of 40%. Secondly, the weakness in our currency makes imported clothing rather expensive. Lastly, our fair weather means you can climb in shorts and t-shirt year round, negating the need to purchase all this fancy clothing. From the climbing side, we think that all good brands are actually represented in SA. While there may have been over 25 different climbing shoe manufacturers represented at the show, the biggest and the best have made it to our shores. The outdoor industry is alive and well and growing at a phenomenal rate, and that is absolutely great to see! Unfortunately there appears to be a lack of product innovation and many brands are working on very similar products. Hopefully we will have some new serious cutting edge (not your rope) technology soon.
On our last day, we visited a few shops in Zurich to see how Swiss retail shops compared with our own CityROCK shops. Our first stop was Ruedi Bergsport, a specialist climbing shop in Zurich that focussed on Petzl and CAMP climbing gear. Their pricing was similar to ours in SA, and their overall selection definitely not as good as ours. Richard also got yelled at for taking pictures without permission, but we had already gotten used to that at this point in our trip. Beware of that wagging German index finger!
We then made our way to one of the bigger stores, TRANSA Outdoor. TRANSA is located in central Zurich, and made most Sportsmans Warehouse stores look small. This store had everything from running to climbing, GPS units to kids bicycles. Noteworthy: a proper climbing wall, and a huge “try-it-on-it-yourself” climbing shoe section where all the climbing shoes are laid out unboxed on shelves, like Woolworths does here in SA. From what we had seen at the first shop, TRANSA gear pricing compared favourably to our own. Funny story: TRANSA even had an in-house travel agency called Globetrotter. The special package of the month was none other than Namibia and Spitzkoppe!