Commentary: ISPO Shanghai 2016 Weathers China’s Economic Slowdown

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The second edition of ISPO Shanghai showed that there is a demand in the Chinese market for a trade show of this format. In 2015, when the show premiered, this demand was not so obvious to everyone in the market. However, most of those critics now realize their error.

The second edition of ISPO SHANGHAI was very positiv
The second edition of ISPO SHANGHAI was very positiv

This is quite normal. When a new project is launched, it does not take long before the critics pass judgement without having a full understanding. ISPO Shanghai was no exception to the rule. When something new is attempted (in this case, Messe München‘s idea of a multisports summer trade show), one thing is for definite: there are enough skeptics around, who stand there with their hands in their pockets ready to spread negativity.

The outdoor industry – as always a divided camp

Among the critics, there were a few reasonable people. They also had a few reservations regarding a new trade show. Firstly, they were concerned about the current challenging economic environment in China. Secondly, the outdoor companies argued that they already had their own dedicated trade show in Nanjing which worked perfectly well. Furthermore, the Asia Outdoor show was to be held only three days before ISPO in Nanjing – just a stone’s throw away from Shanghai.

Read more on the highlights of ISPO Shanghai 2016.



More importantly, however, was the question of whether a multisports show was needed in a country where there are very few full-range sporting goods retailers like the ones found in the West.

ISPO Shanghai makes a statement in its second year

The organizers of the fledgling ISPO Shanghai show reduced the number of critics substantially with their second, more convincing, edition and successfully turned the show’s perceived negatives into positives. This was not achieved through talking, but through action.

The fact that China’s economy is not growing as fast as it used to is a reason for holding such an event rather than an argument against doing so. It is the anti-cyclical approach. In times when profits come easily to the market players, a trade show is not really needed. Traders buy and sell – and that is basically it. On the flip side, when business becomes increasingly difficult a platform for information sharing is beneficial. This is the time when retail most needs inspiration and interaction between colleagues and suppliers.

ISPO ACADEMY – a smart move

Yes, there is a successful specialty outdoor show in nearby Nanjing. But specialty outdoor retailers, too, have understood that they need new sources of revenues which are to be found outside their traditional environment. The running segment is one example and this was very well highlighted at ISPO Shanghai.

In the face of competition, it was a smart move by the ISPO Shanghai organizers to schedule the ISPO Academy during the free days between the two trade shows. This event created a seamless transition from one show to the other and helped to tie the ISPO customers into the Shanghai event. The vendors, too, appreciated this move. 



The contention that there is very little full-range retailing in China is basically correct. However, there are many specialty retailers of all types – not only in the outdoor category, but also in water sports, running, action sports and so on. They, too, need a meeting point. ISPO SHANGHAI is working towards becoming that place.

A few key brands are still missing

Despite all the positive signals, ISPO SHANGHAI is not yet considered to be the compulsory ‘must attend’ event. To achieve this status, a few more brands who are key players in the Chinese market need to exhibit. It is up to the organizers to convince them to show.

But the first and the second steps are already done. And, with each edition, the number of important brands will grow and enhance the awareness of the show as a ‘must attend’ fair. This will take time, however. It is the same everywhere, but certainly in China – after all, the Great Wall was not built in one day. But the foundations have been successfully laid.

Markus Huber Author: Markus Huber