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Feature report 2011

 

 

By Ms. Ya-Fang Cheng,
Researcher of Footwear & Recreation Technology Research Institute (FRTRI)

 

According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA), the sales of golf equipment in 2009 dropped by 11.4% compared to 2008, while the sales of camping equipment (including backpacks, sleeping bags, and tents) increased. This indicates that under the global financial depression and the increased awareness of the environment and health, more people are choosing hiking or camping instead of costly recreation activities. As we have seen, outdoor activities have become a way of life through which people pursue health and relaxation.

The U.S. and Europe are the largest outdoor-sports markets. And the related manufacturers around the world strive to make themselves seen at the Outdoor Retailer Show (OR) in Salt Lake City, U.S.A. and the European Outdoor in Friedrichshafen, Germany. Compared to the OR in the two above mature markets, the Asia Outdoor Trade Fair in Nanjing, China, is growing at a double-digit rate annually. It attributes to China's rapid economic growth and its massive domestic market. In this article, I will introduce the"Asia Outdoor Industry Design Award" in 2010 and foresee the trends of the outdoor gear industry by analyzing the awarded products


Sales of outdoor equipment around the world

According to the "Report on the Sporting Goods Market 2010" by the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA), the sales volume of sporting goods in the U.S. (including shoes, clothing, and equipment) was 50.7 billion USD after a drop of 1% in 2008 and 3% in 2009. Of the sporting goods whose sales volume exceeded 1 billion USD, the sales of hunting rifles and ammunition increased significantly by 14%, and those of optical instruments and camping equipment increased respectively 4% and 2%, whereas the sales volume of fishing poles and golf equipment showed a double-digit drop (10% and 19% respectively). Despite the overall drop in 2009, the Report indicates the sales volume is expected to increase by 2% in 2010 and reach 51.5 billion USD, with the volume of sporting equipment and footwear to slightly increase by 1% and that of sport attire to drastically increase by 50%. The market is expected to grow significantly in 2010.

Contrary to the influences of the financial storm on the U.S. market, the German sporting goods market is very prosperous. According to Intersport, the largest sporting goods franchise in Europe, the sales volume of sporting goods in Germany has continued to rise since 2008; after a growth by 25% seen in January, 2009, the sales volume further climbed to 8% in January, 2010, indicating the market is not affected by the financial crisis. According to the Germany industry association "SPECTARIS," the sales volume in Germany in 2009 grew by 3.5% to 7.3 billion Euros, marking the third year of continuous growth. Due to two cold winters in a row, the sales of winter-related sporting goods in Germany have been remarkable. Further, the Germans put much attention on health, and most people take special care of themselves when dealing with economic depression. However, not all European countries were safe from the global financial crisis; the sporting goods market in Spain, for example, declined drastically.

Besides the mature European and American markets, a new outdoor sporting goods market is on the rise: China. Market surveys indicate the sales volume of outdoor gears in China from 2006 to 2009 has been growing at a rate of at least 30%, mainly due to the sales of main products such as clothing, shoes, and backpacks. The sales volume in China was only 1.5 billion RMB in 2006, yet it was close to 5 billion RMB in 2009 and is expected to reach 6 billion RMB in 2010 while maintaining the growth rate for the next 5 to 10 years. In the 2010 Asia Outdoor Trade Show, 359 Chinese and foreign brands participation, a growth by 24.6% compared to 2009, and the number of visitors was 16,326, a 13.8% increase compare to 2009. This indicates sporting goods manufacturers are working hard in this promising market.

 

New Products in the Show

1. 2010 Salt Lake City Summer Outdoors Show-
The following are the products winning the Best in Show Awards announced by Gear Junkie.

 


KLYMIT INERTIA X FRAME

Utilizing a framework structure and ergonomic design, this inflatable cushion can be folded to fit a soda, and the astonishing 258 grams of weight is at least 40% lighter than its competitors, boasting itself to be the lightest, ultimate cushion in the world. Besides blowing air into the unit with the mouth, it can also be inflated with the unique argon gas with the nozzle developed by KLYMIT for optimal insulation. (Source: www.klymit.com)

 

NPOWER PEG

What to do if you are in the mountains and your battery needs a charge? Hook the nPower PEG to your backpack on your mountaineering or hiking trip, and your iPod or GPS will never be out of power in the outdoors. The motion generated when you move around is channeled to generate electricity through the magnetic coils, and the kinetic energy is stored. About the size of a cigar and a weight of 340 grams, this device generates 5V DC, 2.5W of electricity and utilizes the USB 2.0 interface. The maker states a minute worth of motion generates can power iPod Nano for a minute. (Source: www.npowerpeg.com) http://www.npowerpeg.com/

 

 

LA SPORTIVA MORPHO SHOES

From Italy, La Sportiva in 2011 will present two models of shoes with the latest technology: Morpho Dynamic Technology. The new feature is the sole that provides better stability, grip, and shock-absorption on uneven or damp surfaces. (Source: www.sportiva.com) http://www.sportiva.com/


SEA TO SUMMIT 3D NANOSHELL

Down has always been the top material for insulated sleeping bags, yet its performance is hindered if it gets wet. The 3D Nanoshell is the latest technology introduced by Sea to Summit to control the dampness of the sleeping bag. The system incorporating a breathable layer, waterproof layer, synthetic silicon fiber, and down effectively keeps external moisture out while allowing perspiration from the human body or down itself escape, keeping the sleeping bag dry and at its optimal performance. (Source: www.seatosummit.com) http://www.seatosummit.com/

 

STERIPEN SIDEWINDER

This is a water purifier that requires no battery at all. Put water gathered outdoors in side the unit, and use the crank to activate the UV light that kills germs and other invisible microbes. A liter of water can be fully disinfected and turned into safe, clean drinking water after 90 seconds of cranking without boiling or any electricity, making this a convenient and practical tool in the outdoors. (Source: www.steripen.com) http://www.steripen.com/

 

DELORME/SPOT DEVICE

GPS has increasingly become a necessity for outdoor activities, and SPOT GPS allows you to send text messages anywhere in the world, even to Facebook or Twitter, keeping your friends and family informed of your whereabouts. (Source: http://gearjunkie.com/)

 

2. 2010 Nanjing Asia Outdoor Sports Exhibition:
The following are the six products winning the Asia Outdoor Industry Design Award.

Gold award - VAUDE NORRSKEN

This inflatable cushion is an innovative design by Vaude (Germany) that utilizes the PrimaLoft material. PrimaLoft generates an insulation layer in the cushion, blocking the air flow between the ground and the human body. A thin silicon layer on the fiber and minute amount of silver grains effectively ensure the cushion stays bacteria-free and dry. (Source: http://www.8264.com) http://www.8264.com/

Gold award - Fire Maple FMS -100T Assembled high-performance titanium stove

Besides the six 3-directional struts, jointed folding mechanism, and an innovative wind-proof design, the most impressive feature of this product is the use of bidirectional pre-heat sinks that allow exceptional pre-heating and improve fuel efficiency and energy-saving. The use of titanium, an environmental-friendly metal, in the stove also greatly extends the life of the product due to the resilience and durability of the metal. (Source: http://www.fire-maple.com)

Environmental award - EDELRID FALCON 9.4mm

Falcon 9.4mm professional dynamic rope utilizes the latest dust/stain-proof technology by EDELRID. Being the lightest in weight and thinnest in diameter, the rope offers unmatched performance that is perfect for any combinations of routes or ice-climbing, making it the top pick for professional climbers.(Source: http://www.edelrid.de)

Silver award - Kailas Men's professional 3-layer GTX raincoat

Utilizing the most durable, breathable, windproof and waterproof Gore-Tex pro shell fabric, the hood of the raincoat has a 3D design that allows one to wear a helmet under the hood and turn the head freely without having an obstructed view. All strings can be adjusted with one hand; the long armpit venting zippers each has two pullers for the easy adjustment of the spot and amount of ventilation. The strings are hidden inside to prevent being caught up by one's gear or tree branches. The two sides of the lower hem of the coat are insulated for high-altitude mountaineers.http://lvyou.wanjingchina.com/a/70/(Source:www.kailas.com.cn)

Silver award - VAUDE Conex 45+10

Utilizing the Proflex backpack system especially designed for mountaineers, the light-weight and ergonomic design ensure comfort, flexibility, and full range of motion during climbing, while the ultra-light, curved aluminum frames ensure stability and quick-release when necessary. The ventilation channels provide an ideal air-flow capacity. The unique ceramic printing on the bottom and the sides improves anti-abrasion. (Source: http://www.vaude.com)

Silver ward - MILLET RADIKAL PRO

These waterproof, insulated high-performance hiking shoes utilize the Phylon honeycomb structure and AIR SKIN簧 3D tailoring design that keeps the shoes ventilate. The comfortable fleece lining keeps your feet warm, while the BOA system gives the belts convenience and resilience, providing mountaineers with the performance needed in extreme, icy, and steep terrains. (Source: http://www.millet.fr)

 

 

Viewing the R&D direction of the new products at the exhibitions
Based on the information and products released in the above exhibitions in 2010, the R&D direction of future products is summarized below.

 

Environmental friendly
The global issues and concerns such as the global warming, climate change and energy depletion has not treated environmental protection simply as a slogan but put it into a way of living and life philosophy in many parts of the world. Asia Outdoor Trade Fair promotes the ideas of "Environmental Friendliness, Health and Nature." And many exhibits also emphasize the relevant low-carbon and environmental-friendly concepts. Therefore, the use of environmental materials, energy-saving is accordingly a crucial selling point. Designs such as motion-powered recharging and efficient fuel use manifest new business opportunities.

 

Weight reduction
Another important indicator in today's product design and development is to reduce the weight of each product by as much as possible. As long as the structural integrity is not hindered, the change or simplification of the structure, weight reduction (such as the hallow design), or the use of plastic, carbon fiber, or synthetic materials is encouraged. Different brands are marketing their products by focusing on the light-weight feature, for example, KLYMIT INERTIA X FRAME that boasts being the lightest inflatable cushion in the world.

 

Innovative technology
Because outdoor activities are more popular, more manufacturers put more focus on R&D and apply for patents. The focus of their R&D is primarily on weight reduction, improving sports performance, increasing comfort, protection, ergonomics, and individual needs. Improper designs very often cause use discomfort or inconvenience and thus constant technical innovations are expected to acquire new markets.

 

Aesthetics
Undoubtedly, the color of a product and the image are the first impression in a consumer's mind. Different from fashion industry, the manufacturers of outdoor sporting goods must consider the esthetics of outdoor activity, the environment characteristics, material feature, the age of the target users, and, more importantly, the "themes" such as "gentle," "countryside," "speed," "strength," or "technology."

 

Conclusion
Judging from the awarded exhibits, it seems the European and American companies still dominate the outdoor techniques and markets though Chinese companies have taken its wings in the global market. Consultant Knut Jaeger of the Asia Outdoor Trade Show said, "China's outdoors market has maintained a double-digit growth rate, and it is expected to become the third largest outdoors market in the next 8 to 10 years, preceded by the American and European markets."

In order to improve the competitiveness of Taiwan's outdoor sporting goods industry, it is important to foresee or to meet the global demands and trends so as to stay on top of the outdoor designs and to go in front of the trends. Thus more added values can be created through R&D and we can create Taiwan's own brands, and improve our capacity in the international marketing. The above-mentioned efforts will enable the domestic companies to compete in the fierce global market.

 

References