Previewing the SFIA Industry Leaders Summit

SFIA VP of Business Development John Peters answers our questions about the 7th Annual SFIA Industry Leaders Summit, which is set to take place in Baltimore, September 25-26, 2019.

Tell us about the SFIA Industry Leaders Summit. What’s new at the event this year?

The Industry Leaders Summit (ILS) was created for C-Level executives spanning across the sporting goods, apparel, footwear fitness, retail, and now technology industries. There are three main goals of the ILS each year: 1) To discuss business issues that impact the bottom line, such as tariffs which we covered last year in Denver; 2) To provide insights from industry experts which enables our C-Level executives to have important business learnings to take back to their respective teams; and 3) To provide a platform for networking amongst the industry’s leaders.

This year, we will be focusing on innovation and how two leaders like our keynotes Topgolf and Zumba, were able to find their “blue ocean opportunities” by essentially creating brand new activities that inspired and continue to inspire millions. The theme of sports participation is always top of mind as well.

We are also excited this year to explore for the first time, an up-and-coming niche brand panel; featuring footwear upstart NoBull, boutique fitness standout Everybody Fights (Started by George Foreman III) and Hydrow — the innovative rowing concept that just raised $27 million from L Catterton (same investors as Peloton).

Another thing new this year is Carbon — we’re very excited to be hosting the co-founder. They are the innovative 3D printing technology firm, that just became the industry’s newest unicorn, valued at over $1 billion. They have done special projects with Adidas Boost shoes and now a Riddell football helmet. (This offers a way to learn about new technologies enabling you to better your business by improving your products and expediting manufacturing.)

We specifically brought back diversity as a discussion again. Our industry is lagging in this and it’s very clear: we need to do a better job ensuring everyone has equal opportunity. Period. We will be hosting a special discussion on hiring and what our industry can do better. to be more representative of the market we are serving.

What are some other big issues that the Summit will be focused on this year?

Sports participation: We believe that is a core driver of business, and it is SFIA’s mission to increase sports participation in the U.S. Other big issues: Digitalization of youth sports; Fitness remains one of the hottest industries — we are featuring two dedicated panels with leaders in fitness; How niche brands are competing with the big dogs; NPD will again take the floor to share point of sale data and discuss what is trending, market analysis, future predictions and insight on the impact current sales have on business as a whole. There have been billions of dollars invested and countless funds raised to invest in Sports Technology. Topgolf will discuss where this hot industry is headed and the extensive business and consumer opportunities provided by sports tech and diversifying the game to increase participation. In addition, 3D printing technology and innovation labs are opening doors for product expansion, customization and rapid turnaround periods.

Why should retailers attend this event?

Retailers should attend because the world is increasingly getting smaller, in large part thanks to technology; which is giving consumers more power than ever. As a result, retailers are competing for foot traffic and need innovations to drive awareness and sales. Innovation in this case certainly includes learning about new technologies, learning about upstarts, establishing relationships with brand CEOs who are attending to find more distribution. Not everything will be sold on Amazon, and some Digitally Native Brands prefer to work with specialty retailers over bigger box chains. We certainly think the opportunity to get business done in our 48 hour summit presents unique opportunities retailers do not find elsewhere.

What can you tell us about the Start-Up Challenge that is part of the Summit?

We launched the Start-Up Challenge in 2016 with one goal in mind:  We wanted to highlight innovation to industry leaders, while supporting entrepreneurship and small business. It’s been remarkable. In three years, we’ve featured 16 companies in a “Shark Tank” like pitch setting. Since then, the 16 companies have raised nearly $140 million in funding. Companies who pitched at the competition have raised money on-site to keep their dream alive. This platform has created brand partnerships, heightened name/brand recognition and awareness, and expanded distribution for select companies who have pitched.

This year will be the best one yet. It starts with our renowned panel of judges. This year, we’re excited to announce that we’ll be featuring judges from retail (Amazon, Walmart GMs), investors (Venture capital groups seeking to deploy capital, Private equity firms like North Castle Partners and Norwest Equity), and brand execs to provide valuable insight.  (Judges will include executives from Intel Capital, Topgolf  Chairman, Head of Innovation Lululemon, Brooks Running, RW Baird, Champion, and more soon to be announced).

We are expecting to receive double or triple the amount of applicants this year versus last year, and that’s because innovation is alive and well in our industry AND because we believe we have the best contest/platform in the world. You’d be hard pressed to find a place where you can do the following all in one spot: expand your distribution, raise capital on site, find brand partners, receive valuable feedback from sport business leaders, find suppliers, sourcing and more.  

How can interested parties sign up to attend the SFIA Industry Leaders Summit?

Visit SFIA online at SFIA.org and use the code Formula4 to save $100 on your registration. If you are a retailer group interested in attending, please reach out to SFIA VP of Business Development, John Peters, at jpeters@sfia.org for a special retailer group discount.

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