Arne Strate has been EOG General Secretary since the beginning of 2019. Before that, he was responsible for marketing and communication at the European Outdoor Industry Association. Earlier stations are Reef and Volcom.
In his current position Strate wants to strengthen the relevance of the outdoor industry as a sector that takes on its responsibility towards nature and people, minimizing its impact from manufacturing but also as one that can give back to society through the power of outdoor activity. In his view, platforms such as ISPO Munich 2020 happening from 26 to 29 January or OutDoor by ISPO are indispensable for this.
What makes you so sure that trade fairs are still up-to-date?
Arne Strate: In the first place, naturally our Vision2020 project. For this we asked the outdoor industry throughout Europe between 2016 and the end of 2017 whether and how a trade fair is still relevant for all participants. Incidentally, it was this process that led to the OutDoor moving to Munich and to a new concept.
The result was quite clear. A vast majority of those surveyed still want and need trade fairs. But no longer focussed solely on the product. It is clear that someone who puts lack of order-writing as the reason not to be at trade shows in one sentence has not paid attention to the developments over the last years. What is in focus for this:
- exchange within the sector
- cross-industry exchange
- technological novelties
- general trends
All of this leads to a better overview and understanding of the market, which is what will determine if a company can be successful in the future.
Nevertheless, there are (former) exhibitors who herald the end of the trade show era...
Which is something I really do not understand. One thing proves to me again and again the relevance of trade fairs: All manufacturers who, for whatever reason, no longer officially exhibit will then actually be on site. This is not "having a look", some of them even come with teams of over 50 people. Brands, consultants, distributors, suppliers... There is no sniffing, there is clearly work. Not on the product, but precisely on the things listed above. So there is obviously an added value, otherwise they would not attend.
Anyone who gets something out of a trade fair should also put in something in return, otherwise it's just freeloading and disrespectful to the rest of the trade. If you are not a retailer, this means being on site with your stand, or buying tickets regularly and at full price.
What does a trade fair have to achieve when product presentation and the coordination of order transactions are no longer in focus?
In addition to the areas just mentioned, this includes in particular further training. This is a very important topic, especially in retail trade. For example, we had numerous stages with a thematic focus at OutDoor by ISPO. These were spread throughout the trade show and there were many lectures, presentations, and discussions with experts. However, these are all facets, which one easily overlooks if one walks over the trade show with the product glasses and is not open for new things.
Concerning the outdoor industry, I can say that there is always a great need for constant exchange beyond the product. This is because we, as the EOG, have committed ourselves with all our industrial partners not only to an economically sound business but also to nature restoration and conservation and the promotion of an active population. We can only achieve these goals if we rethink and no longer think only in terms of product life cycles but discuss innovations, trends and socially relevant topics together and act accordingly in unity.
What, for example, must an ISPO Munich or an OutDoor by ISPO offer in the future for industry, retailers and all other interest groups so that the doubters are also convinced?
In the end, I believe that a modern trade fair is prosperous if it manages to compensate for the loss of the order business in a way that is enriching for the industry through new content. In addition a trade fair is successful if the majority of visitors and exhibitors say, "Thank God I was there, otherwise I would have missed something".
It is very important that this transformation of the trade fairs is supported by all participants. A new trade show concept can completely fizzle out, if all visitors come to the trade show with the old mindset and are unable to see and use the new areas. What the consumer does in his everyday life must be experienced at the trade show, otherwise the trade show will not be relevant for the retailer. In the end, that is what counts. As ideal case the trade show is a one-stop shop when it comes to innovations, exchanges, technological highlights, trends and pre-competitive cooperation.