Kevin Flanagan, ASR show director, bends down in front of the entrance to the ASR Europe trade show and picks something up with a piece of paper. As I approach, he spots me and smiles sheepishly, and I can see that he’s been making sure that none of the attendees will step in dog turd on their way to his inaugural show. Talk about hands-on management.
It was a quick vignette, but it spoke volumes. The ASR staff had turned a vacant lot of sand dunes along the Chambre d’Amour in Anglet, France into a slick trade show. When they arrived, there was literally nothing there, no power, water, sewage — certainly no trade-show hall. It all had to be trucked in and assembled. “It’s like we’re camping, joked David Loechner, VNU Sports Group president.
Well, no one said it was going to be easy. When EuroSIMA announced that it was interested in getting behind a new trade show to replace the out-of-favor Glissexpo, ASR was there with its hand up highest. And judging by the feedback from many of the 160 action-sports and youth-lifestyle brands and thousands of retailers, its subsequent efforts were appreciated.
Held a mere 100 yards from the beach, ASR Europe was housed in a large, U-shaped tent that provided 3,800 meters of exhibit space. While most skate exhibitors were noticeably absent from the show, that didn’t stop the ramps outside from being almost continuously sessioned. New product, including seamless boardshorts from Rip Curl and O’Neill, enticed the many French and Spanish retailers in attendance. Restaurants and surf shops were also nearby. The only thing missing was surf — the Atlantic remained dead flat during the event.
Even the after-hours party was all-time. Hosted by EuroSIMA, the packed event took place on the floor of the Bayonne bull ring — an unusual honor. A local high school band lent the event a distinctive European vibe, while a raucous salsa band kept the crowd dancing well into the morning. When coupled with the ASR bus that shuttled thrill seekers to Pamplona for the running of the bulls, it added up to a memorable party circuit — perfect after a long, sweaty day in the trade-show trenches.
“EuroSIMA is pleased to see that ASR Europe’s first trade show was a success and that it has removed many questions about the capacity of a trade show to revive and create value, says Rip Curl Europe Chairman and EuroSIMA President François Payot. “We are confident that this success announces an even more successful edition for the next trade show. Today, we are totally convinced that ASR Europe is a must attend trade show for the board sports industry.
Quiksilver Senior Vice-President Harry Hodge, who worked long and hard on behalf of EuroSIMA for the show to become reality, was also satisfied: “The inaugural ASR Europe was an unprecedented success from almost every aspect. Being the first of its kind on new dates and timing meant some clients adopted a wait-and-see approach. However, with ispo’s successful new dates and ASR Europe following, the foundation has been laid for future growth.
“From Quiksilver’s point of view, continues Hodge. “It was regarded by our sales personnel and staff as the most successful trade show we have had in Europe for more than ten years.
Smaller brands also left satisfied. “Overall the ASR Europe show was very good for us, says Cobian President Charley Cobian. “It was pretty well attended, had good energy, and a great location. We didn’t see a huge number of retailers, but we did see some of the key accounts from southwest France, Paris, and especially Spain. We also saw a ton of distributors — which is who we were there to meet in the first place.
Most companies reported a turnout of Spanish retailers that was beyond expectation, even though most admitted they were disappointed at not seeing more French buyers. One suggestion was that a stronger marketing push in France would help increase awareness of the new show. <
According to Volcom’s Richard Woolcott, “My overall impression of ASR Europe was positive. I think the gathering of retailers and manufacturers was successful and opens up more potential for next year. However, the timing was early for a spring line, which is tough on design teams.
As with ispo, the timing of the shows remained a hot topic. Apart from industry giants like Quiksilver, Billabong, and Rip Curl, it was difficult to find exhibitors who were happy with the earlier dates. Most noted that the show was scheduled on the weekend that officially kicked off the summer sales season in France — which could explain the lower than expected turnout of French retailers.
Others echoed the most widely heard arguments against early show dates: not having samples ready in time and retailers not being prepared to order until after their August numbers were in. However, when pressed for an alternative, most admitted that August was out of the question and September was probably too late.
“If you want to seriously compete in Europe, this is a critical new time frame, says Loechner. “We are confident and committed to this game plan. We are committed to product launches.
The only other complaint about the show was the heat. Summer heat made the inside temperatures sweltering until portions of the tent’s walls were removed to facilitate ventilation.
But these were minor issues when you considered this was ASR’s first foray into the European market. What attendees and exhibitors were left with instead was the vibrancy of the Basque Coast market, Europe’s continuing opportunity for surf-industry growth, and fun memories of the Chamber Of Love — not a bad start when you think about it. — Sean O’Brien and Trey Cook