ASRticle – A Return To Business?,ASR exhibitors are more focused than in the past.

With notably smaller booths and the return of heavy hitters like Tum Yeto and DNA Distribution, the vibe at the September ASR show in San Diego was more positive than at ASR a year ago.

Tum Yeto CEO Tod Swank explains the two reasons he decided to return to ASR: “The number-one reason for coming back to the show was ASR’s commitment to the IASC to work with the skateboard industry to cooperate to improve the show, as well as contribute toward the overall benefit of the skateboard industry. Number two was the launch of Dekline International, as well as ToyMachine’s prebook clothing line.”

Dwindle Distribution’s Sales Manager Jim Shubin felt the ASR show proved to be a little more productive, compared to the previous weekend’s Bayview Rumble: “We don’t bring back a whole lot of orders from that one (Bayview)-it’s more of a presence thing.” Comparatively, ASR seemed to be more business-oriented, especially this time around: “It looked like there was a little more traffic, the state of skate seemed to be on the up.”

Despite the lack of a big-name or big cash-prize event this year, there were several trade-show events to keep weary wanderers interested and entertained. Premise Intelligence Agency hosted Skatepoardy, a skate-trivia game-show event for skate nerds everywhere. Questions were provided from some of skateboarding’s most well-known databases, including On Video’s Miki Vuckovich, Thrasher’s Michael Burnett, and TransWorld’s Kevin Wilkins. Among the contestants were TransWorld’s Grant Brittain and Dave Swift, 88 Shoes’ Ed Dominick, and Skateboarder’s Aaron Meza. The event was emceed by Sal Barbier, and the grand prize was a Powell Hot Rod Flame skateboard bench.

After ten years of skateboarding videos, 411VM finally set up an autonomous station at the trade show. Instead of a full-fledged booth, though, they rented a tent, some plasma TVs, and brought some theater seating from their office. They premiered several videos over the weekend, providing a place for their customers to sit and watch some skateboarding. 411VM Marketing Coordinator David Gillanders says, “This is the most direct marketing we’ve ever done. We did really well, especially with our international accounts. You wouldn’t believe the amount of money we saved-we did it really DIY style.”

Several companies scaled down the size of their booth this time around. Most notable was the Dwindle booth-at September 2002’s ASR show it offered massage tables for weary clients. This year, the booth didn’t even have walls. Shubin comments, “Our last booth was a hundred-thousand-dollar booth. I wanted to get back to the basics this time around.”

Another cost-effective alternative to renting out booth space was to reserve one of the convention center’s conference rooms. Powell has been doing this for a few years, with relative success. Powell’s Promotions Manager Michael Furukawa explains, “We like the meeting room because it’s casual and because we don’t have to spend so much money. It’s a quieter atmosphere, so we can really get some great discussions going on, instead of being interrupted by all the bros.” Although not subject to the foot traffic that the showroom floor offers, the conference rooms certainly provide a quiet place for accounts to have a bite to eat and sit down to chat about products.

But not all companies cut down on the size or location of their booths. DC Shoes had just as big a booth as ever, and DC’s Public Relations Manager Sally Murdoch explains why: “DC’s booth wasn’t diminished because our business is growing. We heard from our retailers that we were one of their top-producing brands for back-to-school.”

There were even a few booths set up in the lobby, although mostly stands for nonprofits such as Elemental Awareness and the Patrick Kerr Foundation to hand out literature. The proximity of these stands to the Starbucks kiosk may have been the wisest booth placement all weekend.

Retailers also felt that the show was a return to business. Mike Beedle from Texas’ Fast Forward shops felt that many companies were less extravagant than in the past: “I felt like a lot of people didn’t have as much money as they used to have, and their booths were a lot smaller-they didn’t really try to step it up. I think it’s because everyone’s nervous about the economy.” Beedle had good news for the companies at ASR: “We had a really great back-to-school, and I think that it’s a breath of fresh air to the vendors.”

Minnesota-based Fobia’s General Manager Peter Harvieux also had a busy weekend: “I did a lot of running into the booth, like “what up” style-what I call machine-gun ASR.” Despite shortened appointments, Harvieux managed to get his business taken care of. “It was a little bit busier than the last two shows, as far as foot traffic, and it seemed like there were a few more appointments.”

After a few years of depleted attendance and smaller, autonomous shows, ASR seems to be picking up steam once again. ASR Show Director Kevin Flanagan says it was a positive show and that he’s glad to have most of the major manufacturers back in the show again. “We had a lot of pats on the back. I think it was a combination of things, but the industry as a whole got behind the show. Having several of the major hardgoods manufacturers back in the show helped, the energy that those guys brought was great. I think that there’s a sense of sticking together this time around.”

Swank agrees, adding that it was a productive event for everyone involved: “It was much easier than throwing the Coup D’ Etat. We were busy most of the time-I was bummed I missed the bikini show.”