In an interview with judowear: Stefan Kneitinger from the Ippon Shop.
You've always wanted to know what's going on behind the scenes at a suit manufacturer and distributor, or have you ever wondered how a suit is made?
Then take a look!
judowear: How did you come to judo?
Stefan Kneitinger: I myself came into contact with judo very early, at the age of 3. As a German Youth Champion I also made the jump to the national team and the first team of TSV Abensberg. During my active career and my business studies, I worked in the Ippon shop in all areas. The end of my active career happened to coincide with the end of my studies in 2013 and since then I have been running the Ippon shop together with my father.
judowear: Who is behind the Ippon Shop?
Stefan Kneitinger: The Ippon shop was founded in 2003 by Otto Kneitinger, my father. Otto Kneitinger has been an integral part of German and international judo sport for 40 years. Whether as manager of the German record champion TSV Abensberg, later as Bundesliga representative and vice-president of the DJB, vice-president of the EJU, or organizer of the Judo World Championships in Munich 2001, Otto Kneitinger belongs to judo like an Uli Hoeneß to football .
judowear: How did the Ippon Shop come about? How and why did you become an adidas partner back then?
Stefan Kneitinger: The Ippon shop was born out of a fun opportunity. Adidas started approx. focus more on martial arts in 2000. Due to Otto Kneitinger's strong network in international judo sports, the adidas brand approached Otto Kneitinger and asked him about his interest in distributing adidas judo products in Germany.
In fact, Otto Kneitinger was already sufficiently busy with other projects at the time. Fortunately, the first meeting of the adidas brand with Otto Kneitinger took place at the Abensberger Gillamoos, the fifth largest folk festival in Bavaria. After a few measures of beer and a convivial round, Otto Kneitinger stepped in and agreed to the distribution for Germany. Four months later, a 40-tonne container arrived in Abensberg at the town square without notice. There were no premises or warehouses available. Fortunately, an old bank on Abensberger Stadtplatz was just empty, in which one rented at short notice and placed the 300 cartons in charge.
Fifteen years later, the Ippon shop is the official and exclusive adidas Martial Arts distribution for Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania and Croatia.
judowear: What was the biggest challenge in the history of the Ippon Shop?
Stefan Kneitinger: Otto Kneitinger became the official adidas sales force almost overnight. The contacts and the network were of course there, but the biggest challenge was to create a high-quality infrastructure of warehouse, purchasing and sales.
judowear: What is the behind-the-scenes situation in Abensberg?
Stefan Kneitinger: The Ippon shop actually consists of a small, family team. All employees are connected somewhere with martial arts or judo. This is of course very important to us, only an employee who is passionate about the matter with heart fits our company.
judowear: There is now the own brand Ippon Gear from the Ippon Shop. What made you want to make judo suits?
Stefan Kneitinger: It was just as spontaneous. I was commissioned by adidas in 2011 to design the new IJF suit, the adidas Champion 2, together with the adidas factory. The development of the new adidas IJF suit was of course something special for me as an athlete who was still active at the time. In close consultation with my team-mates at TSV Abensberg and the national team, we developed a great product. The factory was also enthusiastic about the smooth development and approached me with the proposal of a own brand.
It took me a few years to get this idea to mature. I was asking myself more and more how we could reach more athletes and clubs with our product range. With adidas we have the absolute No. 1 in martial arts in the house, but unfortunately there are many people who can't or don't want to afford an adidas product. That's why we absolutely don't see Ippon Gear as a competitor to adidas, but as a great alternative with a top price ratio.
My vision of the Ippon shop is to be a provider that offers everything an athlete, club or association needs. This includes having an alternative product. The first Ippon Gear year was a complete success and the feedback from the clubs and athletes is great and it's just fun to work with the clubs and athletes to improve and optimize their range in order to provide the best possible customer service in the end.
judowear: How does a new judo suit be created at Ippon Gear?
Stefan Kneitinger: As described above, it starts with the development of the products. One thinks about the target group of the product and lays down the material weight and the coarse properties such as lapel thickness etc. fixed. Then we go to the cut of the suit, on which we attach the greatest importance. We make patterns, exchange with top judoka and work until we are satisfied with them.
The product is then manufactured in our high-quality factory and comes after approx. 4 months of production time in our warehouse. At the factory, we rely on our long-standing partner STARPAK, who has been producing judo suits for adidas for over 30 years.
judowear: Are you both still active judoka? What about your employees?
Stefan Kneitinger: Unfortunately, we rarely get on the mat, but we are still closely connected with athletes and judo sports. Almost all of our employees also come from judo sports.
judowear: Which judo suit is your current favorite and why?
Stefan Kneitinger: Overall, of course, you have to highlight the adidas Champion 2 IJF. In terms of material quality and cut, there is no better judo suit in my eyes at the moment. The suit is available with a normal cut and as a SlimFit variant, which means that every physique finds its ideal size.
From the Ippon Gear range I would highlight the Ippon Gear Fighter. The Fighter is manufactured according to IJF standard in terms of material. The Fighter is also available as a Slim Fit model in addition to the normal cut. The fit is really great and the price compared to the quality actually unbeatable. We are currently equipping a lot of league teams with this suit and the feedback is consistently positive.
judowear: What are the next topics and projects that are up for you?
Stefan Kneitinger: Since 2017, we have been the new and exclusive adidas Judo sales for the entire Balkans. Here we have to build up an infrastructure and a network again. Furthermore, we would like to further improve our brand Ippon Gear and establish it in the clubs.
judowear: What news can I look forward to as a judoka when I think of the Ippon Shop?
Stefan Kneitinger: In 2017 there will be great new bags and a textile series. However, we will have to wait until the end of 2017. In the core area, i.e. the judo suits, we will not change much. The range stands and we want customers to be able to rely on our quality and products. That's why it's our challenge to keep the quality high and to respond to customer requests and feedback.
judowear: Thank you Stefan!
Currently still valid: The 10% Ippon Shop voucher! You'll find it on judowear.de .