In yet another sign that the women’s market continues to capture the imagination of the surf industry, Surf Expo has announced that it is setting aside a portion of its January 2004 trade show in Orlando, Florida to specifically cater to the women’s market.
“We’re creating a show within a show, says Lori Kisner, vice president of dmg world media, owner of Surf Expo. “We’ve had a lot of success with this concept. The wakeboard and water-ski show is a perfect example. It was the only sold-out section of Surf Expo in January.
Kisner says Surf Expo has partnered with Action Girl to produce this portion of the show, and has paid a licensing fee for the Action Girl name. Action Girl ’03, the brainchild of Jamie Sparks, debuted at Long Beach Convention Center in California in mid July. Billing itself as the first trade show focused on the women’s action-sports industry, the event had modest success, attracting about 3,000 attendees during its three-day run.
Kisner says Action Girl’s focus will allow Surf Expo to get this women’s portion of the show up and running in the shortest time possible.
“Surf Expo can do it all on our own, says Kisner, “but we would have to staff up. This is a major undertaking, and to staff up, hire extra marketing people, and train them would take time. Just like the trends out there in the industry, we’ve got to pop really fast.
Kisner says Spark originally invited Surf Expo to come look at the Long Beach event to see if it was something they wanted to acquire. “But out of respect for the agreement we’ve just signed with SIMA, and the fact that we think that it wouldn’t be a good idea to get involved in a surf show on the West Coast, we won’t acquire this show, says Kisner. “But we really liked her ideas, concepts, and energy. Plus, from an infrastructure standpoint, she’s got sales. She’s got marketing. She’s got it all. So it was just as easy for us to go and say, ‘Okay, we like your concept, just bring it over to Orlando.’
Kisner says that even with the addition of the Action Girl portion of the show, the overall size of the Orlando exposition won’t be changing much. “We’re pretty maxed out, she says. “I haven’t asked for any additional space until 2007, because we want to get back to the days where we have to be choosy. So at this point in our success we’ll maintain a 2,200 booth show.
She says manufacturers are very supportive of the idea: “They think we’re definitely on to something. They have different lines of distribution when it comes to their juniors’ lines, so they can be a little less cautious than with the men’s lines. They can be a little bit more fashion-forward in their distribution. So this is kind of giving them that great opportunity to show the rest of the fashion world that we’re a serious player.
Another goal is to attract fresh brands and retail buyers to Surf Expo. “We think that by separating this out we can attract new exhibiting brands and retailers, says Kisner. “We’ve talked to a lot of new retailers, and the perception is that Surf Expo’s a men’s show. We’ve got to overcome that, because it’s not correct. If we just move all the juniors’ lines of our existing exhibitors into the Action Girl section of the show, it will almost fill up the space.
Kisner says Surf Expo’s Action Girl will encompass 300 booths. “We’re hoping for 50 new exhibitors—about 100 booths’ worth of new companies and at least 150 of the more fashion-forward boutique retailers.
If all goes according to plan, the Action Girl portion of Surf Expo will ooze vibe. “We’ve talked doing a tiki lounge on the show floor with drinks and acoustic music, says Kisner. “We’re also going to have a vert ramp made specifically for the girls that will convert into a fashion-show space. Another idea is a film festival where manufacturers will give us their women’s video projects and we’ll run a loop of films throughout the show.
“We want people to start thinking of Surf Expo Orlando as part of the fashion business—especially when it comes to juniors, Kisner continues. “We’re really not looking at this as a big moneymaker as much as it is keeping the show fresh, keeping us on top of our game, and getting more retailers involved. Plus, it’s exciting.—Sean O’Brien