Debates about the location of the European OutDoor trade exhibition were at the center of many conversations at the lively and highly productive event that took place in Friedrichshafen on July 19-22. Members of the European Outdoor Group (EOG) discussed the issue at a meeting during the show, but they agreed that they would make their choice between Munich and Friedrichshafen on the eve of the next ISPO show, on Jan. 26. The outcome of the secret ballot will be recorded by a notary and only made public at the end of ISPO, so as not to disrupt the fair.

The contract with Friedrichshafen will still cover the 2008 fair, but for the following year EOG members will study competing proposals from ISPO and Friedrichshafen. The EOG has organized a transparent tender process, in which each of the 39 members and 4 associate members will have one vote and a 15-page summary of the two offers, compiled by the bidders themselves.

Managers of Messe Mûnchen made a presentation to the EOG in Zurich where they stressed the international character of Munich, the eco-friendly features of its fairgrounds and the new lifestyle orientation of ISPO’s summer edition, which is drawing new customers from the fashion circuit. ISPO’s managers have already said that they intended to keep showing in the summer for at least three more years. They are evidently eager to draw the outdoor exhibition to Munich after the mitigated results of their latest summer show, but they told the EOG that they are prepared to stage a stand-alone outdoor fair anywhere in Munich at the same dates or at any others.

The outdoor industry continues to show in Munich at the Winter ISPO. Stand rental costs are said to be similar between Munich and Friedrichshafen, so this is not an issue. The decision on the summer venue will likely be based on other considerations such as indirect costs, infrastructures and financial contributions to the EOG’s activities.

The steady growth of the OutDoor fair has obviously caused logistical problems in Friedrichshafen, where many visitors struggle to find transport and accommodation. On the other hand, some EOG members feel that Messe Friedrichshafen should be rewarded for its ability to turn the OutDoor fair into a leading international event, while ISPO has been less supportive in the past. Some also regard the relaxed atmosphere at Lake Constance as an integral part of the show.

To their credit, the Friedrichshafen fair and local authorities have invested heavily to address the growth of the OutDoor show. Two new halls are to be added, along with an enlarged entrance hall with conference space and additional parking lots.

The big crowds found at the latest OutDoor fair plead in favor of Friedrichshafen, as 16,900 visitors from 70 countries flocked to the show, an increase of 9 percent compared with the previous year. In contrast with the summer ISPO Sport & Style show, the OutDoor fair was bustling and the atmosphere was upbeat, after another growth year for the European outdoor business.

Research by the EOG indicates growth of 2.6 percent in 2006 to €5.49 billion in the largest markets of Western Europe. In spite of a poor winter season and unpredictable weather patterns, the outdoor market remained healthy due to the growth of the lifestyle category and rising participation in outdoor sports activities..

Apparel represented almost exactly half of the total outdoor market. Buoyed by swelling sales of lifestyle and travel-oriented clothing, the category expanded by 8.9 percent to €2.79 billion. With a share of 21.9 percent, footwear sales jumped by 12.9 percent to €1.2 billion. Equipment accounted for 28.2 percent of the market or €1.55 billion. There aren’t any comparable sales in this category for the previous year, because the researchers have substantially changed the parameters, for example using a broader definition for tents.

Germany remained the largest single outdoor market in Europe, generating sales of about €1.66 billion in its wider definition or €1.2 billion for specialist products only. Next is the UK with a tally of €1.16 billion, or €805 million for dedicated outdoor products. The EOG estimates that France’s outdoor market was worth about €950 million, while all the others are below €500 million.

Two types of outdoor sports were under the spotlight at the fair in Friedrichshafen - trail running and slacklining, an increasingly popular activity that consists of walking on a flat tightrope, preferably affixed between two rocks. Ake Nordin, the founder of Fjällräven, received the Celebrity of the Year award.