When Mark Held speaks of himself as "a veteran watcher of the outdoor industry". In fact, Mark Held, President of the European Outdoor Group (EOG), has been part of the outdoor industry since 1983. He has accompanied the industry through a number of changes over the past 36 years. Now, once again, a major change was on the agenda. For the first time the OutDoor by ISPO took place in Munich.
Held talks to ISPO.com about the premiere in the halls of Messe München GmbH and explains what surprised him the most.
ISPO.com: What are your feelings about the first OutDoor by ISPO in Munich?
Mark Held: The first thing to say is we set a really ambitious target to Messe München GmbH when we gave them the opportunity to pitch for the OutDoor show and they have really done a great job. I'm impressed that so many of the things that we discussed and talked about have come to fruition and as you walked around the show, looking at the new visual layout with wide aisles, no carpets and all the little visual devices it created a way more exciting impact on visitors.
Why was this new concept so important for the outdoor business?
Before, you had the biggest brands at the front of the halls and all the visitor traffic went around the hall fronts and atrium. Which in turn meant that visitor flow to the back of the halls was really difficult and of course that’s absolutely no good for keeping exhibitors and visitors happy.
The new concept and layout meant that the distribution of visitors was way better and everywhere you looked there were people on booths. Some people reacted to the fact that the mid aisles were thronged with people, but loads of people in a small space is simply stress and instead of that OutDoor by ISPO was relaxed and pretty chilled.
It was always going to be a big task to move something that's been in one place for 25 years, but it worked and that is something to be proud of. Equally there are loads of small things to fix, but that's a luxury, isn't it? If you've got the basics right and you've really changed the status quo then the chance to look at the smaller details and to refine things for the following year is an amazing luxury to have.
We really congratulate the ISPO team for the work they've done and feel that they’ve elevated the show to a new level. We really look forward to seeing it grow in future years.
But you mentioned there are things to improve…
… Of course, there are always things to improve and we look forward to working with the team on lots of ideas that we and they have had during the show and from observations or from talking to people. So we’ll now come together and have some brainstorming sessions about how we can make it even better and bigger and more relevant for the years to come.
Of particular interest to me is that the show is not just about brand and retail. The show has to be about so much more and cover all the transactional areas from product development through sustainability through materials through marketing through H.R. etc.
The whole reach of the industry has to be encapsulated in what we do here and that's so important for everybody to realize that it's a show for everybody - not just for brand and retail.
Did you see developments in the outdoor industry?
I’ve been observing the outdoor industry since 1983 and there are constantly new developments. I think the biggest and most important one for me is that the industry is now really engaging with the subject of what it stands for. What do we as an industry believe in? What are our principles? In terms of people, in terms of environment, in terms of giving back etc, exactly what is it that makes us special.
To me this is the most important thing we can do right now because we can never ever win in terms of lowest cost product. So it's super important that we as a sector look at our DNA and by that I don't mean look backwards negatively, but look at what are the common things that run through the outdoor industry and that make the outdoor industry special. Let's celebrate what makes outdoors different.
The big topic was sustainability this year, a topic that could remain the biggest issue for a long time. What does the outdoor industry have to do to ensure that it doesn't remain the overriding topic in the next 30 or 50 years?
Well, it should be the topic for the next 30 or 50 years. But what I was almost saying before about the DNA: sustainability is not a thing in its own right. Sustainability is all about minimizing the impact of what we do. But in addition to minimizing the impact of what we do we also have to focus on treating people the way we want to treat them. So ensuring that our supply chains are fair, ensuring that we actually pay people a living wage and we give them decent working conditions are equally important.
And then on the other side is ensuring that the natural environment is protected, biodiversity is protected, land is protected. That we remove plastics from our land.
Finally, we have to activate the populations to engage in outdoor activities and to ensure that young people in particular get the chance to enjoy and learn about the outdoors. So these 3 areas are what make up the 3 pillars of what we see as a modern and differentiated outdoor sector. All three have to be engaged with and all three resonate with our heritage and the principles we stand for.
What surprised you the most in Munich?
For me the most important thing is what one visitor referred to as the ‘vibe’. The show is a show for the entire industry, but it is also a huge community event. It's where we as an outdoor sector come together to celebrate everything that makes us outdoor.
Everyone said that moving the show would kill the special atmosphere and sure, the atmosphere at OutDoor by ISPO was subtly different from the old show, but OutDoor by ISPO was relaxed, confident, chilled and celebratory all at the same time and because of that I’m really proud of our sector and the support everyone gave the new show.