Sports Business/10/28/2020

Winter 2020: Sports Brands Look Positively at the Winter Season

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The winter season is just around the corner and the sports industry is preparing for the next challenges. Given the current uncertainties, what expectations do sports brands have for the coming winter? The increased consumer demand for sport and the experience of nature gives many companies confidence.

The sports industry is optimistic about the coming winter season - despite the existing uncertainties.

The summer has already shown it: People are in the mood for sports. The outdoor segment and in general individual sports that can take place outdoors have increased in recent months. Dr. Kai Hudetz, Managing Director of the German market research institute IFH Cologne, even speaks of a special economic boom in certain areas of the sports market. Thanks to Corona, attention to the topics of fitness, nutrition, and health has increased considerably. This attitude will not change in the coming winter. Accordingly, the sports industry is looking forward to the new season with hope. "Even though we cannot yet know what twists and turns Covid-19 will still have in store for us, we are still looking ahead positively", says Michael Sieber, Head of Sales at Ortovox, and thus speaks for the entire industry.

Winter Sports Are Not a Risky Sport

Everyone agrees that winter sports are not a high-risk sport with an increased potential for infection. Winter sports are practised in the open air and the necessary distances can be kept without any problems - at least during the sport. Transport, gastronomy and last but not least party tourism are problematic. In order to find reliable solutions here, all players in the winter sports industry are currently working closely together. "What is important is the common message: winter sports are outdoor sports and therefore not among the actual risk sports for COVID-19. Accumulations associated with the sport like après-ski, ski schools, accommodation, events and transport are the challenge to be solved", says Marc Hasenstein, Managing Director for Germany & Austria at the ski manufacturer Elan.
In order to make sport safer and bring new sales to the retail trade, the sportswear industry has long since started to develop mouth-nose masks itself. The pandemic even brought the Spanish tubular scarf manufacturer Buff to the limits of its capacity. It now also offers new products with integrated filters.

Trends: Individual Sports and Nature Experience

Nevertheless, in view of the continuing risk of infection, manufacturers expect a change in consumer behaviour. Winter sports such as ski touring, freeride, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing will be particularly popular this winter. In a recent study, Schöffel has shown "that many people have come to appreciate the value of outdoor activities during the lockdown and afterwards - and we are sure that they will continue to do so more intensively in future," explains CEO Peter Schöffel. He adds: "Sporting and health aspects are clearly in the foreground, and offerings such as après-ski will become increasingly less important." With good snow conditions, smaller ski areas should have good chances this year and regions that are easy to reach.
Other sports away from the mountains are also expecting further growth, such as running or bouldering - the latter especially in southern European regions. "During and after the lockdown there was a run on crash pads. Many brands were sold out, it was crazy. Today, retailers are very confident about climbing equipment and are even increasing their orders," says Maria Fuentes, Brand Manager of the French bouldering brand Snap.

Outdoor activities are very popular in pandemic times. This will not change even in winter.
Image credit:
Jack Wolfskin

Assortments: Basics and Highlights

If you look at the assortments that are being delivered to retailers in these weeks, two categories dominate: Core assortments and highlights. Many manufacturers have reduced, rearranged or postponed parts of their winter collections in response to closed stores and lack of retail sales at the beginning of the pandemic. Manufacturers and retailers are playing it safe, "this includes streamlining the product range, too," says Melody Harris-Jensbach, CEO of Jack Wolfskin. This would not always have been necessary in retrospect: Some brands eliminated products early on that retailers would have liked to sell later. Delivery dates were also adjusted, for example from August to September at Ortovox: "We want to maintain this in the future," says Sieber and hopes that more brands will start to bring delivery dates and seasons closer together.
However, this winter, new incentives to buy through highlights and innovations should not be missing. "Basically, the retail trade trusts especially in those collection areas in which Elan has a unique selling point through its innovations," continues Hasenstein.

More Openness to New Things

Although the pandemic has caused a lot of damage in the industry, many also see an opportunity in it: "We have all learned that you can grow with new challenges. I am proud of our employees and how smoothly many things have worked here. And with many partners, solutions were also found with understanding for each other," says Melody Harris-Jensbach. The challenges "demand and encourage our creativity and courage," says Marc Hasenstein. For winter sports as a whole, the pandemic means "both a necessity and an opportunity to change", Peter Schöffel is convinced.
Trade fairs must now also demonstrate creativity and courage by developing new, hybrid concepts and incorporating digital elements. However, nobody wants to see an end to physical trade fairs. Harris-Jensbach: "Trade fair concepts must also develop further and will become more digital in the future. Irrespective of this, they continue to have a very high relevance for us".