Rumors And Lies: ASR January 2004

Where were the parking hassles? Where were the street barricades, the traffic snafus, and the late-night hubbub? To showgoers accustomed to negotiating the Street Scene rat maze that accompanies the September ASR show, this inaugural San Diego Convention Center January ASR show was almost hassle free.

And that may have actually been a problem. This year’s ASR event, held January 17—19, was nearly the exact same size as last year’s January event in Long Beach, but it somehow felt, well, smaller. “The actual square footage was almost precisely on par with Long Beach, says ASR Trade Show Director Kevin Flanagan, “There were 1,100 {ten by ten} booths of exhibitor space in San Diego and the previous Long Beach show had 1,130. So the show, just on a square footage basis, was a success — especially under the circumstances with the economy.

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In fact, while the preliminary count of total attendance looks to be holding steady compared to last year’s Long Beach show, Flanagan says the actual number of attending stores saw double-digit grow. “More retailers showed up and they maybe brought two buyers instead of three, says Flanagan. “Everybody who was there, however, both exhibitors and buyers were true professionals — the veterans of the industry.

To the jaundiced eye of the trade-show warrior, part of the reason the show seemed smaller was that it was the stuff, the whole stuff, and nothing but the stuff. There were no aisles of extraneous product — just the real meaty flank of the action-sports industry. That was a big enough meal for most.

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Sure, some booths dropped in size. A few two-story edifice complexes turned into relatively svelte 20 x 40s. The consensus was this was a good thing, a centering of the business focused on need. But let’s be clear: some manufacturers were taking over even more trade-show real estate. For example, Volcom’s booth was its largest ever and was actually a booth within a booth, with certain portions featuring sound-dampening hard walls. Imagine!

Then there were the new faces. ASR brass made a point of explaining how there were 70 brands showing at the ASR show for the first time. I was hard pressed to spot all of them, but several were impossible to miss. “The thing I was most stoked about was the new brands at ASR, brands that retailers were excited about, and brands that have a shot to make it into the top ten of brands, says Flanagan. “Everyone was really excited about Mada and it was really great — as a show organizer — to see them take the limelight and run with it.

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Indeed, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the launch of Mada was the story of the show. Vinnie De La Peña and the Mada crew said ASR went gangbusters for the upstart brand: “It was a great, great show. I couldn’t have imagined a better start for us. The three workstations in the new booth were completely booked. He estimates they saw about 45 accounts. So what retailers are on board? De La Peña said there were more than he could mention, but he threw out a few names: Active, Laguna Surf & Sport, Jack’s, The Closet, Val Surf, and Moondoggies are some of the places that are backing the cause. Vinnie also mentioned Mada will be in Sun Diego, but expects that to be the top of the distribution chain for the brand.

“We are looking for authenticity, the core brands with roots in the industry like Mada, says Milo Meyers of Hanger 94.

But it wasn’t just new brands making strides at ASR. All the heavies and a few old familiar-face brands had stories to tell too. Just look at Hobie, which hit the show with a new look, new logo, new eyewear program and surfboard push, and several new faces. According to Paul Tyner, Eyeking is the new Hobie eyewear licensee and Block has picked up the clothing label. Another interesting part of the equation is Hobie Surfboards, which are still shaped in the original factory where the Hobie line got off the ground in 1962. Shaper Mark Johnson says t emphasis is moving slowly away from longboards to authentic retro funshapes and the iconic boards from throughout Hobie’s long existence.

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Over at Gravis, we checked out some kicks with marketing coordinator Dominick Volini. The shoes looked great, and Dominick said the company is hitting an especially good pace in the surf market and with some of the new women’s stuff. Even though Dave Schriber, former Gravis top dawg has recently moved on, the company seemed to be having a great show.

Jimmy Olmes was busy upstairs showing retailers his new line of Reactor watches, a series of beautiful timepieces that he says will carry both higher price points, higher quality, and higher retailer margins that other watch lines. We’re keeping an interested eye peeled on how the market reacts to this watch-industry veteran’s new line.

Monument president Dave Matt was having a good Sunday morning when we stopped by. The line looks edgy, lots of solid tees, denim, and trunks. Matt reports the company has got some good momentum going, and is solidifying relationships with some of the bigger core retailers, as well as covering the grassroots.

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Heather Lamb, buyer from South Coast said the ASR show was super productive for her: “It seemed a little bit more mellow than usual, but that was kind of nice because I think I got a lot more done. A few companies had their fall previews, so that was cool. Even in what some have called a saturated market, there seems to be room for retailers to put some fresh labels on the floor. From ASR Lamb is adding a couple new additions to her shop. “I was really stoked on Hurley’s girls swim, so we’re definitely picking that up. I see a lot of swimwear, and that line looked really strong. We’re also adding Mada. It looked cool and I think it will do well, so we’re excited about that.

Over at Seven 2, Alan Mazer and Erika Klein who both handle PR, say everyone’s fired up on new team members Joel Tudor and Joe Curren. Not to be outdone, Op’s added WCT veteran Taylor Knox to its ranks. The Shout PR folks also mentioned they’ll be working with Redsand on PR now as well.

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We elbowed our way into the slammed B-Bong booth and talked to surf team manager Geoff Moysa. Geoff broke his board on Saturday morning on a growler in Oceanside so he ended up cutting his session short and getting to ASR early — lucky Geoff. And of course the B-Bong booth went haywire as soon as WCT World Champ Andy Irons stopped by for an autograph signing.

Over at Clive, marketing and promotions manager Rudy Vasquez was talking up a new pricepoint pack that’s checking, “the Standard. He says Bam’s new bag is also moving. The Quiksilver booth was, as usual, shiny and busy. Quik bees Kenna Bertell, Jim Kempton, Greg Macias, and Joe Lazar were all buzzing around the hive. Pat Tenore and Conan Hayes from Rvca were sans booth for ASR, but they were doing a good job spreading the vibe on foot. And the Split booth was firing as they continue their upward trajectory in the surf market.

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Sanük’s Jeff Kelley brought Ryan Pinkston, the kid who does the irreverent red carpet interviews for MTV’s Punk’d, by the Transworld booth. Both of them were sporting Sanük’s “IHOP bodyboarders shirt, which is destined to be a classic. We also stopped by Atlas Distribution, where the boys were doing business like it was going out of style: Dezi, Dooma, and Danny were easily the hairiest salespeople at ASR.

Surfride’s menswear buyer Derek Eisenkerch said he was happy with the show, especially with the more southerly location. As far as new brands, it’s picking up Seven 2 and Rvca for their Solana Beach store. What about the almighty shoe brands? “Shoe-wise we’re staying about the same this year, reports Eisenkerch.

The show floor was, as usual, a great place to pick up interesting tidbits. Dennis Smith, owner of Seaside Surf Shop in Seaside Oregon says the Oregon surf market is exploding with popularity. Quiksilver and some of the other larger brands are debuting fall even earlier (and are perhaps locking up those open-to-buy dollars earlier). Lost President Joel Cooper is excited their new energy-drink initiative. And there may be new pressure on board builders when it comes to contract labor regulations. All this in ten minutes!

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But that’s the point I guess. There’s no place better for taking the temperature of the market and that makes the trade-show burnout, expense, and sensory overload not just bearable, but negligible.

“The show did what I expected, sums up Flanagan. “It affirmed that San Diego was a preferable location for retailers — they enjoy coming to San Diego and bringing family. Our challenge is to continue to shake things up and keep things fresh.[IMAGE 9]

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ularity. Quiksilver and some of the other larger brands are debuting fall even earlier (and are perhaps locking up those open-to-buy dollars earlier). Lost President Joel Cooper is excited their new energy-drink initiative. And there may be new pressure on board builders when it comes to contract labor regulations. All this in ten minutes!

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But that’s the point I guess. There’s no place better for taking the temperature of the market and that makes the trade-show burnout, expense, and sensory overload not just bearable, but negligible.

“The show did what I expected, sums up Flanagan. “It affirmed that San Diego was a preferable location for retailers — they enjoy coming to San Diego and bringing family. Our challenge is to continue to shake things up and keep things fresh.[IMAGE 9]

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