Agenda’s Aaron Levant On Moving East Coast Show To Miami

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The Mana Wynwood will host Agenda Miami this upcoming January 18-19, 2016.

Agenda’s Aaron Levant On Moving East Coast Show To Miami

Yesterday, Agenda announced through Instagram a big move for its winter show. Traditionally held in New York for the past five years, Agenda NYC will make its inaugural pilgrimage to Miami this winter, January 18-19, 2016. While much of the reason to move into a new territory was based on diversifying the show’s exhibitors and buyers, the weather constraints of winter months in the Northeast have also played a big part, says Agenda Show founder Aaron Levant.

You work for six months on these two days and something like the weather that is totally out of your control can ruin it,” says Levant, recalling Agenda NYC’s Winter 2014 show when many flights got canceled due to an uncharacteristic snow storm that shut down much of the city. “That is when I really started toying with the idea of Miami and that moment put me in the position of saying ‘hey, we really want to speed up this process.'”

Levant also cited a void in the Southeast region’s tradeshow circuit that speaks directly to the streetwear market, although he did acknowledge other shows in the region do exist. The dates for the new Miami show will fall at the tail-end of Surf Expo, which is slated for January 14-16, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.

The Southeast (SE) expansion is an initiative that’s been brewing for Agenda Show since 2013, as well as other plans to expand internationally with the backing of parent company Reed Exhibitions, who has offices in 36 different countries. Some target areas of expansion that Levant outlined back in 2013 included Asia, Europe, and Brazil, although the show has not officially announced any international expansion at this time.

Levant says since announcing the show expansion, Agenda has already received a ton of positive feedback, and “had a lot of great conversations with local accounts who really want to get involved.” We caught up with the Agenda Show founder to hear the details behind how the Miami show came together, what the new venue Mana Wynwood brings to the table, and what’s in store for this winter at the show.

Moving the show to Miami is pretty big news. Congrats. It seems like you guys have been toying with this Miami idea for a while. In reality, how long have you been seriously planning this move?

I've been playing around with the idea for the last 3-4 years. I've known that I wanted to do something there for quite a long time but it is about when the opportunity presents itself at the right time, right venue, and right dates. Also the right market conditions as far as where our customers are at, what they are asking for, and all that. All those key elements aligning at the same time is what allowed us to launch this idea. I would say the whole thing all really came together in the last three months, even though we've been thinking about it for three years.

You said all the elements had to align and that one of those is where your customers are at and what they are asking for. What sort of demand were you hearing from brands and retailers?

We really started considering it seriously two years ago, so January 2014. We had that really bad snow storm where like 5,000 flights into JFK airport got cancelled. As an event producer that is obviously really scary. You work for six months on these two days and something like the weather that is totally out of your control can ruin it. That is when I really started toying with the idea of Miami and that moment put me in the position of saying "hey we really want to speed up this process.”

In terms of what our customers were saying, there were brands, retailers, and buyers who two years ago paid for the show and could not get there until the end of the second day. So they obviously missed like half or 75% of the show. From a strategic perspective, we have customers who want to be in the SE region and pick up those buyers. However, there isn't a show that fits their demographics. There are obviously shows in Florida already and in Atlanta. In terms of the majority of the market we are serving right now for Agenda New York, there really isn't a substantial show in that region for them. Also, it is the possibility to bring in new brand types that don't attend our New York show. So in all, it is both of those factors.

The Miami venue is about twice or three times the size of the NY venue so we have a lot more room to grow. We will be able to accommodate all the brands we've had in New York but also going in to other segments. I think it will end up looking more like Long Beach where you have a huge lifestyle, action sports segment but you also have the street and sneaker side of things. We will have this duality that will represent both markets.

You mentioned that you feel the SE region is undercapitalized. Can you explain how Agenda will help fill that void?

As far as the street side of things, there is nothing in that region at all that is helping those buyers. I think that  by taking our NE show, which is a bit more regional, and getting all of those same people to fly down South. The big opportunity comes in picking up all that SE traffic that maybe wouldn't have come to our NY show. We are bringing even more buyers from a broader geographic space to the brands that we already have as well as expanding the brands that we have. By doing that, we'll have a brand mix that is more indicative of our California show.

What is the new show schedule going to look like?

The plan for now is move Agenda New York in January to Miami then a New York summer show. So the show will rotate every six months. We are not ruling out the possibility of a SE (Miami) show sometime in June or July. Just because that is the part where we've seen a lot of demand. There is not a show any time of the year in that region for the street market. As well as the action sports side, there is currently only a show down there in September. Obviously that’s a big void in the spring selling season.

For the New York show you had a really strong streetwear presence due to the fact of where it was located. Will the Miami show have a similar feel to that? Or will it be dictated by the location?

The first thing for New York that was a big factor is we seriously built out the show to capacity. There is no more room for growth at the venue. The Miami venue is about twice or three times the size of the NY venue so we have a lot more room to grow. We will be able to accommodate all the brands we've had in New York but also going in to other segments. I think it will end up looking more like Long Beach where you have a huge lifestyle, action sports segment but you also have the street and sneaker side of things. We will have this duality that will represent both markets.

In general, are we going to see more surf and swim brands since it is in Miami? 

Right now in New York there aren't many surf and swim brands. There is only a handful. So yeah, the relocation will have an immediate trickle effect of more of those brands. The street market is pretty mature in that sense. The opportunity to grow is all in the lifestyle, surf, action sports side of the show.

Take a look at the Mana Wynwood’s signature event, the Art Basel Week, to get a better idea of the floorplan:

The venue itself sounds really interesting. How did you land on that spot to host the show?

I have to give props to my friends at F1rst Surf Shop in Miami. Those guys helped hook us up with the venue. They are one of the cooler surf and lifestyle accounts in South Beach. We've been partnering with those guys for a while and they come out to our shows. We were looking for the right kind of space out there and they helped us find it. So I went out there to check it out, fell in love with the venue, and now we have a show there.

What aspects of the venue were you most impressed with when you went to check it out?

You kind of have to go check it out for yourself but the district it is in is really cool. Every building there has kind of made an art gallery out of itself. The outside of the buildings are covered in murals from some of the top street artists in the world. They redo these murals every year, it is a hot bed of activity. The total area is being rejuvenated so there is a lot of energy in that zone and the building is the biggest one and right dead center of this whole movement.  It is perfect, just a really cool space.

When did you lock in this venue?

A while ago… I won't say exactly when.

Can we expect any other big surprises this year like an Agenda Japan?

I mean there is always something coming from Agenda. I don't think there is ever more than a six month period where I don't put out some big, exciting news. There could be big news coming up in the next six months that I don't even know about yet. That is how we like to do things, just continually innovate. The beautiful part of our company is that no matter how big we get, we can still come up with an idea that we think is great for our customers and execute it in a very short amount of time. I pride ourselves in that we can still be quick to market. Literally there could be a big thing coming that hasn't even been birthed as a concept yet.

In terms of how the show is going to be broken down on the floor, will there be sections like there have been in the past with The Berrics, a surfboard shaping zone, etc.?

There has not been a decision made on it yet because everything is still so premature. We have to ultimately see how big the show is going to end up being. The reason for the sections is more like a navigation thing. We always break things down by section. We'll see how this physically ends up laying out and if that is necessary from a navigation standpoint. It is not as much about the branding as it is actually helping people walk around the show.

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