Seven times a year, SPORT 2000 holds order fairs that see hundreds of dealers, suppliers, and partners converge on SPORT 2000 GmbH’s head office. This successful order model has been a regular part of the sports retail association’s activities for many years. This year, however, the 6,000 m2 exhibition area in Mainhausen remained empty. The laws and health regulations implemented to stop the spread of COVID-19 meant that sneaker and order fair 5/Running Special could not take place in its accustomed form. This was a challenge for SPORT 2000 and all its affiliated dealers. “The current situation requires creativity and fast action from us, and from the industry as a whole.Holding the fairs on our premises in Mainhausen wasn’t an option at the time, so we had to work on an alternative. By moving the fair to the digital world, we are offering our dealers and industry partners a new type of platform on which they can exchange views; share knowledge, news, and innovations; and plan the next season,” explains Markus Hupach, CEO of SPORT 2000 GmbH, adding, “The fair creates the best possible conditions for our dealers to get the coming season off to a successful start.” However, the virtual fair may also be an excellent alternative in times when social distancing is not required. Hupach sees it as a viable concept that could have many advantages as a complement to fairs held on location.
Rethinking order fairs
The novelty of the current situation means that people in all industries are familiarizing themselves with the possibilities of technology and finding new ways to meet up. A five-strong team at SPORT 2000 made up of marketing, trade fair, category management, and running specialists spent weeks hard at work on realizing a digital trade fair experience. The transfer of the event to the virtual world met with a positive response from SPORT 2000 retailers, and the first fair was very well attended with 250 visitors. “The positive feedback we received from all sides confirmed that our decision to take this path was the right one. A lot of people didn’t think we’d be able to get a digital solution up and running so fast. The whole team has done a terrific job and the result is absolutely extraordinary,” said Hupach in praise of his team at head office.
Live participation by mouse click
SPORT 2000 retailers have exclusive access to the fair. There is no limit to the number of participants from each store, which means that there’s nothing stopping employees from attending. Dealers click the mouse to move through the various halls, all of which are appealingly designed. Along with product information, opportunities for live chat, and digital meetings at the brand partners’ stands, visitors can also attend interesting live talks and webinars. These will be saved on the website and can be replayed any time afterwards. A newsletter with information about the program on offer is sent out regularly. “The trade fair is alive and well – also in the digital world. Our dealers can discover something new every day, just like they used to at our fairs on site,” says Hupach. To close the first digital fair, SPORT 2000 organized a virtual trade fair run in cooperation with Brooks. This proved that a common passion for sport and exercise can create a sense of unity within the association even if it is pursued virtually.
Personal dialog in the virtual world
The dealers and above all the industry partners of SPORT 2000 were enthusiastic about the idea right from the start. More than 50 suppliers made an active contribution to the success of the fair. For all the advances in technology, the sports retail association and its partners still put the quality of personal dialog first. Markus Hupach: “Personal dialog is immensely important for dealers and brand partners alike. Here it’s important to exploit all the technology available so that the disadvantages of physical distance can be overcome as well as possible. All the information is made available to the dealers digitally in product videos, webinars, and live sessions. This facilitates active dialog and consequently a smooth order process.” Brand partners can precisely address the needs of SPORT 2000 retailers by chat or video conference and give them the best possible advice – just as if the fair were taking place on site. However, Hupach emphasizes that it’s a learning process: “The new approach of holding fairs online due to the current situation requires belief in the format, acceptance, and a little patience from all the parties involved. We will learn a lot from the first two virtual fairs, and this will enable us to continue developing the concept. The possibilities and developments are progressing at such a space that we can expect quantum leaps during the seasons to come.”
Virtual fairs as a future-proof enhancement
The availability of individual online access means that SPORT 2000 dealers can take part in digital fairs in a larger time window no matter where they are. This also offers considerable potential for the future. If dealers are unable to attend on the actual day of the order fair, they can still take part digitally and place their orders this way. “Virtual fairs offer significant advantages for many of our dealers and industry partners in terms of flexibility. This means that this new form of access could be used as a complement to personal order fairs in the future. Dealers who have to travel a long way or who can’t be present on the day of the fair can simply take part online, involve additional staff, and use their time efficiently when placing orders,” says Hupach with regard to the use of virtual access as a meaningful addition in the future.