Agenda President Aaron Levant On Ten Year Anniversary; Expansion To Southeast

Agenda tradeshow is gearing up to celebrate a decade in the business with next year’s round of Long Beach and Agenda NYC shows. While the shows are now a large scale production, drawing an expected 600 brands to exhibit at the Southern California show alone, President Aaron Levant and his staff have pulled off a unique spin to the traditional show floor vibe by continuing to attract fresh, up-and-coming brands and create smaller, more coveted sections, like the premium space carved out at the Long Beach show in July.

“We are continuing to do the same things we’ve done; we’re not making any drastic changes, and we’re really happy with the way the show has been,” says Levant. “You will see more of  certain categories, like our premium category we launched at the last show— we have doubled the size of that section between last show and this time around, so we are seeing more brands coming in from that space.”

Besides expanding and signing on close to 30 brands that are new to the January Long Beach show, and on top of celebrating a ten year anniversary in 2013, Agenda is also planning to roll out another show location in the Southeast. The exact location of the new event has been determined but the crew is not yet ready to disclose that information, says Levant. We caught up with him to find out the details behind the upcoming Long Beach and NY shows, and any hints he could give us about the soon-to-be-launched Southeast U.S. show.

Take a look at show coverage from Agenda Long Beach July 2012:

Which brands have you added to the expanding premium category at the show this time around, and why do you see them as a good fit?

The kind of brands you’d see in that section range from brands like Comune, Cheap Mondays, Happy Socks, and we added a lot of cool new brands into there this time like Wellen, Mowgli surf, Waar and Broken Homme, Nudie Jeans, Cazal eyewear,  Rip N’ Dip, and other premium surf and denim brands into that section, Topo Designs bags, and Maui and Sons. So there’s a cool mixture that jumped on there. That’s the biggest growing category for us at the show right now.

Also, a couple key brands have come back this January, namely Nike and Volcom, who you’ll see back on the show floor that you didn’t see there last summer. The show is steadily growing. We just added Channel Islands last time, and we will see surf hardgoods as a bigger segment moving forward.

What can returning retailers expect to see at the show?

Overall largely a lot of same brands. I think we have one of best brand offerings, and it’s unique at Agenda that you can get all these segments at one show,  where sometimes you have to go to the pure surf show, or a streetwear show, or a premium show, you know hit three or four different shows to really get the product offering we have.  At Agenda the unique thing is that you can get so many of these different market segments in one trip, and that’s the unique thing we are offering to attending retailers.

Returning brands like Nike and Volcom, those are always great to have because they are staple brands in the industry, and it’s always great to have them if our timing lines up. As far as the new brands, a lot of those are coming in the way of in the premium section and we have other cool up and coming surf and skate sections.

We are definitely elevating our women’s presence at the show. We also have brought on Dane Reynold’s new brand Summer Teeth, which will be debuting at the show.

 Is Agenda growing in size? Last round saw some major traffic numbers, are you expecting a repeat of that this time?

We are definitely growing in size. Last time we had about 550 brands, this time it’s closer to the 600 brand mark. We are also using more of floor space, each brand that is there is increasing their space and footprint. So you will definitely see growth in brand numbers and the amount of space taken up. with our attendance numbers, I  think we are going to see that go up by 10% to 15% compared to our summer numbers for January, which is actually pretty good for us in January because it’s a hard time for people to get out of their shops. People who do any type of snow business it’s obviously a big time for them. It’s so close to the New Year that anytime we are growing in January it’s a good thing. We are also definitely seeing an increase in retailers and buyers in attendance .

Have you seen a lot of the snow specific brands returning to the show this time around, especially with the rough year experienced by most in 2012?

Before we were making a big push with Agenda snow, and I think you are going to see us going back into that in 2014.

When the snow brands come to our show it isn’t necessarily the core snow products they are selling. We have brands like Burton at the show this time, and Analog is there, but I think that when Burton comes they are focusing more on their bags and their year round business, because we have more of that kind of retailer. We have Bonfire, Smith, Neff, we’ve added Dye to the list. We have a lot of snow accessories, but I don’t think we have a lot of boards, it’s more about the apparel and the accessories that go along with snow, not the hardgoods side of things.

We have Nike Snowboarding, and Skullcandy, which is based in snow, so definitely brands that identify with snow are a big part of what we do and we we are going to reenergize our efforts around snow next year.

What other events are happening around the show that people should add to their schedule and make sure they get to?

There’s definitely a lot of other events happening in conjunction with Agenda. First, obviously is the TransWorld Business Awards which is happening on the first night of the show around 6 p.m.  There’s also the Action Sports Conference going on, which is being put on by the guys that used to do Group Y, which is happening at end of first day and will feature some interesting speakers. Then there will be two big parties to commemorate Agenda’s 10 year anniversary. The first night, Famous Stars and Straps will be throwing a party with Travis Barker, Yella Wolf, and Mix Master Mike, and there’s going to be another party with DGK and The Game.

Inside the show we are hosting a pop up art gallery to relaunch Vision Streetwear, and some of the artists from Seventh Letter are contributing Vision themed artwork. Skullcandy is hosting a ping pong tournament amongst different brands at the show, with cash prizes on that.

Obviously, we are returning with our partnership with The Berrics for the third year in a row, so The Berrics Agenda is still there and still growing. We are hosting an event on the last night of the show—recently, The Berrics relaunched their website and opened up a brand new park in downtown LA, taking retailers skating on second night at the park and headquarters.

Watch this interview with Levant from Agenda’s August 2012 show:

What are you most hyped on for Agenda Long Beach this year?

thing most excited about ten year anniversary will culminate after working this long and hard its a big milestone think me and everyone on the team is excited for show and whole year for ten year anniversary and all things we are doing for that.

Any changes to Agenda NYC? What’s has you most excited about that show?

No major changes for NYC second show in a row at Mercer

think changes before were stand alone show, now we are part of NY mens market week, project, capsule, none doing exactly what agenda is doing, whole week of activity and lots of buzz in the city, our show is growing and a lot more action sports brands joining on that show reef and dakine,

What details can you give us on the new show location you are planning to launch in the Southeast?

That will be a big initiative for us moving forward. We haven’t announced our location yet. We know where we are going to do it, but don’t like to put stuff out there too early, we like to keep ’em guessing. But we definitely think that it’s a major underserved market for a show like ours. A lot of our motivation for doing this is, there’s a lot of great shows down there but they’re more pure to certain market segments that have big surf shows, or in Atlanta you have big urban shows. but there isn’t really anyone bridging that gap that Agenda does, like I talked about earlier. We are serving these multiple market segments and putting them all together under one roof, and I think there’s a real need in that space for a show like Agenda and we are going to go for it.

What would be the timeframe for launching it?

Within a year from now we will have the show off the ground and started.

So maybe next January?

It could be around that time or maybe sooner. That would be the latest. Usually with us it takes, at the least amount of time between the time we concept the show and launch it, up to six months to a year. So that’s the timeframe for us for incubation internally.

Are you partnering with anyone else on it?

Usually when we do a show we just do it stand alone now. We are  past the phase in our career where we are partnering with different companies or entities. We have the ability and infrastructure now to launch shows independently.