Rumors And Lies: ASR January ’03

Well last weekend was the last time (in the “foreseeable future,” according to ASR Director Kevin Flanagan) that ASR showgoers will have to set foot in the Long Beach Convention Center. Beginning January 2004, ASR will hold its January show where it holds its September show: San Diego.

Many buyers and exhibitors left Long Beach on Saturday with a good taste in their mouths. It wasn’t the biggest nor most enthusiastic ASR on record, but it was hardly a slouch. Traffic seemed a tad slow on Thursday, the opening day of the biannual trade event, but it definitely picked up on Friday.

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Ezekiel Sales Manager Royce Cansler says ASR was “great” for the brand. Ezekiel is coming off a year of more than 25-percent growth. Both its men’s and juniors’ lines have been well received by retailers, he says. Cansler notes Ryan Rush, Ezekiel designer, has been promoted. He’s now in charge of merchandising and will draw up both Ezekiel and Ezekiel Girl.

Rick Petri has been doing some drawing of his own lately. The O’Neill Sportswear accessories brand manager has spent most of the winter locked in his office revamping O’Neill’s bag line and is now in charge of the whole program from soup to nuts. Although his wife’s not too stoked on the extra hours he’s been logging, retailers are. The highlight of the new bag line is the Ultratech Series of backpacks, which has three models: Psycho, Fusion, and Gooru. If those sound like the names of O’Neill wetsuits, that’s because they are. Petri says he wanted to tie the bags into the wetsuit line. The bags use the same fonts, logos, and icons as the wetsuits. MSRP ranges from 55 to 85 bucks.

Something that’s not going to retail for 55 bucks is the new diamond studded Glace loc by Spy. If you walked past the Spy booth, you most likely got of glimpse of the sparkling shades dangling from the glassed-in cylindrical case located at the corner of the exhibit. Glace “Ice” (my name) has several diamonds on the frame that draw the outline of the Spy cross logo. According to Spy Director Of Marketing John Lee, the iced-out Glace frames will go for two grand. Insurance policy is not included.

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You’re not going to get an insurance policy with your new Nixon watch, but you’ll get a factory-backed warranty in case something goes awry. Fortunately, everything went smooth as a precision timepiece at Nixon’s ASR showroom, reports Nixon Cofounder Chad DiNenna. Actually, DiNenna says the vibe in the showroom (located just outside the main hall) was better than on the main floor, with ample elbow room and a quiet, comfortable atmosphere that was conducive to business.

Gravis also opted for a showroom instead of trade-show floor space. The atmosphere was chill, but a lot of visitors got pretty hyped on the brand’s new line, which for the first time includes fully functional skate shoes. Gravis has also released its version of the ├╝ber popular retro runner, the Argo. This new shoe features a waffle-tread outsole and comes in men’s and women’s specific sizing, lasting, and colorways. Pricepoints on footwear for fall are lower across the board.

While Nixon and Gravis went the showroom route, Quiksilver was back out on the floor. After a year hiatus (remember: Quik opted for ping pong tables and a showroom last year), Quiksilver Inc. had a hefty footprint again at ASR. Dave Rosenberger of Hawk, a unit of Quik, says this year’s earlier show date made the Long Beach show relevant again and it “made sense” to exhibit. Or is that made “cents”? Yeah.

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You know, what really makes “cents” is the return of KangaROOS to our market. Now this might just be a flash in the pan for the U.K.-based shoe company (and its U.S. licensee), but you’ve gotta get it while the gettin’s good, right? Practically everything retro is haute right now. (Evven Bon Jovi.) To refresh your memory, KangaROOS are those running-style shoes that have built-in pockets (hence the title). They were really popular in the mid 80s and were endorsed by super-star ballers Walter Payton, Clyde Drexler, and Ozzie Smith. David Sullivan of New World, the U.S. licensee for KangaROOS, says the top markets for ‘ROOS currently are NYC, Jersey, and Boston. No doubt L.A. isn’t too far behind. Surely police departments and TSA workers are psyched on the return of pouch shoes.

Speaking of trends, motocross had a presence at this show bigger than ever before. A fenced-in FMX course (which basically consisted of a launch ramp and a landing zone) took up a big chunk of space in the arena (and kept the set-up staff busy as workers were instructed to spread Coke on the floor to make it stickier). The freestyle demonstration was loud and full of exhaust fumes, but those boys put on a spectacular show. Nothing like bringing Lake Elsinore to the beach.

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Surf Diva didn’t necessarily want to bring motoross maniacs to the beach, but it did hope to attract more retailers to its booth. Why? To show them its new line of girls’ apparel. This is the second season Surf Diva has been making clothes. Surf Diva’s Coco Tihanyi says one reason the company (originally solely a surf school) decided to venture in apparel was to meet requests from camp participants. The line, which is mostly tops and boardshorts, is custom cut-and-sew. Surf Diva’s series of “boy beaters” have been most popular with accounts, the company reports.

Nike-owned Hurley has really stepped up its shoe line, which now runs the gamut from slick retro-inspired running shoes to platform clogs. The fashion-oriented line is at least double the size of its debut offering.

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The crowd filing in at DC‘s annual Long Beach party Thursday night didn’t seem twice as big as it did in 2002, but there was a pretty solid turnout. If you didn’t have a VIP pass (and the two free drink tickets that went with it), you had to tough it out in the long line. Inside, the party was well orchestrated. Good times. On Friday, Rip Curl showed a new video 3 Degrees, which got rave reviews. And keep your eyes peeled for Rip’s latest Search flick, This Way Up, which should be in shops now.

Also well done on the social scene was 411‘s premiere of On Video’s Winter ’03, which chronicles skateboarding legend Natas Kaupas’ rise in the skate world (that guy surfs well, too). The skate-nostalgia trip seemed to flow with what we’re seeing in fashion and footwear: that old is new again.

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The action-sports industry has enjoyed a good ride at the Long Beach Convention Center, but the San Diego Convention Center will surely answer our call for gratuitous trade-show splendor when next January rolls in.

— additional reporting by Sean O’Brien

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