Off the sofa, away from the smartphone, off into nature: this is attracting fewer and fewer young people. For suppliers of outdoor products, this is increasingly a problem.
"Young people in europe are doing much less sport than in the past," says arne strate, secretary general of the industry association european outdoor group. So it’s not so much a matter of getting the younger generation to take up hiking, climbing or biking, but rather of motivating them to be active in the first place.
According to figures from 2017, almost half of europeans (46 percent) are completely inactive, i.E. They don’t even go for a walk, says strate. In addition, young people today wouldn’t know life without a smartphone: "we reach them with our ‘old’ products message: "go out, it’ll be great, you’ll love it" not at all."
Companies that rely on the outdoors are therefore now operating on a shaky foundation: intact nature and active people. "These are the only reasons why our industry exists at all," strate said. This is no longer a matter of course today. "We are well advised to design our value chains in such a way that we don’t ruin our planet even more."
Topics such as sustainability, customer loyalty and responsibility, as well as germany as a production location, are therefore advantages that some smaller brands have been able to exploit very well for themselves, said strate. "There are many small ones that have discovered the areas just mentioned as a niche for themselves."The trend toward sustainability has fueled this," he said.
One example of this is the outdoor manufacturer vaude near tettnang on lake constance. Company boss antje von dewitz doesn’t like to use the word niche. But when she took over the company from her father in 2009, sustainability was still just that: a niche market. The then new head of vaude nevertheless consistently relied on this. For her commitment, she has now received numerous awards.
Ortlieb, a medium-sized retailer specializing in bicycle bags based in heilsbronn, france, is also holding its own in a niche where it can advertise sustainability. All products are tested for good 12.000 square meters produced, 30 kilometers southwest of nurnberg. 70 percent of the raw materials used come from germany, according to ortlieb – so transport distances are short. "This is much more favorable than if we had to ship everything from asia," says managing director jurgen siegwarth. The sewn parts come from asia, because this is no longer done in europe.
Ortlieb describes itself as the world market leader in its segment, but the family-owned company does not disclose sales figures. According to the federal gazette, profits in 2017 were just under 1.5 million euros. Vaude is also cautious when it comes to communicating figures. On its homepage, the company reports growth of 6.3 percent for fiscal year 2017 compared to the previous year. Sales amounted to more than one hundred million euros, says von dewitz, without being more specific.
However, the small german specialists have a lot of competition – not only from rough brands such as jack wolfskin, mammut or the north face – in addition, more and more discounters are entering the outdoor market. They mainly sell very inexpensive goods. On the one hand, this is positive because it has introduced more people to outdoor sports, says strate. "However, I see a massive problem here with the topics of quality and sustainability and responsibility in production."
These companies probably made little effort to preserve nature. Almost anyone can make a waterproof black jacket in asia today. "However, if the focus is only on price and margins, it will be difficult, because as outdoor specialists we cannot and do not want to win the race to the bottom."
Reinhard prugl from zeppelin university in friedrichshafen on lake constance sees another advantage for smaller companies: the structure as a family business. "In a current research project, we are showing that people trust a brand much more strongly if you can humanize it – in other words, if you can imagine that brand as a human being," he says. "This is something that family businesses can play very well."