Outdoor retail transformed over 20 years
When the OutDoor was founded twenty years ago, it also had an effect on small outdoor speciality shopsFriedrichshafen - Today, everything outdoor is a societal trend. Hiking and biking are the most common sports in Germany. Even functional apparel is well-accepted, is in vogue and has become an image vehicle for the wearer. When the trade fair the OutDoor was founded twenty years ago, things were much different. The outdoor lifestyle was a fringe interest and many shops were small and dark ? but also fascinating. The adventure started with the shopping trip itself.
From 11 to 14 July 2013, the speciality trade fair the OutDoor in Friedrichshafen will celebrate its twentieth anniversary. But in the early 1990’s, no one foresaw the success that both the industry and the trade fair would achieve. Andreas Bartmann, Managing Director of Globetrotter GmbH, gets right to the point: "The trade fair made a contribution to bringing our industry out of the shadow of the sporting goods industry and giving it a clear profile of its own - and not only nationally but internationally as well.”
In the 1980s, the outdoor lifestyle was something for outsiders. For the majority of the population, it stood for adventurous journeys outside the realm of their own possibility. What was already known as backpacking in the United States stood for drop-outs in Germany - people with long hair who weren’t interested in observing societal conventions. Sympathetically, almost pitifully, it was pointed out these people had little money. Long journeys across strange continents, eventful desert crossings, jungle tours to visit native tribes or survival missions in the loneliest parts of the world. The sheltered middle class eagerly listened to slide presentations about such adventures. But travelling this way themselves? "Never! We’re doing well enough for a proper holiday.”
The shops were run by these "drop outs” whenever they happened to not be on tour. Their locations: far from the pedestrian zones, in the student sections of town. The furnishings consisted of Ikea bookcases and homemade wooden counters, and to top it off, they were small, narrow, dark, and filled to the ceiling with merchandise. Anyone shopping there had to put up with an almost overbearing informality, including being called by their first name by the strange people at the shop. But the amazing thing was that the salespeople in the shops knew their subject, had tried everything out themselves and were happy to explain the products. It could even happen that customers were sent home empty-handed, so that they could spend the night thinking about what they really needed. Shopping was itself an adventure.
Twenty years later, things have changed. The small shops on the edge of town have become large and bright, with top locations in the city centre. "The professionalisation of the entire industry has also completely changed the appearance of our store. Over the last thirty years, we have undergone a whole series of renovations, moves and expansions”, says Ekkehard Brahm, Managing Partner of Düsseldorf’s Sack & Pack, explaining the history of his business. His colleague Daniel Heydinger from the Unterwegs Group in Wilhelmshafen confirms this assessment. "Of course, in addition to the classic and still very important core group of products, we also sell what you could call fashion.” This expansion has certainly made outdoor retailers more attractive for other target groups, bringing customers into the shops who used to have little in common with things outdoor.
Today, the outdoor lifestyle is a societal trend. Getting out into the great outdoors and enjoying nature represent a true alternative to stress of the everyday routine. Outdoor apparel is in, representing the dream of freedom and serving as a vehicle of image and identity. Functional jackets are worn even by people who still take an umbrella in case it rains and will never see a tent from the inside in their whole life. Outdoor is style. Manfred Bachmann, owner of Ergo in Wiesbaden, experienced the transformation himself over the course of 25 years. But he also knows that it could be just a snapshot in time. "The new outdoor casual wear is a visible expression of a changed, more open society in which formal conventions - suits, hierarchy, structures - have become outmoded. Today, we see a very mature market. We are eager to see whether the coming generation will have the same ideals and values and whether they will buy the same products.”
The OutDoor 2013 is be open from Thursday, 11 July until Sunday, 14 July, to trade visitors only (Thursday to Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). More information is available at www.outdoor-show.com.