The Ledge Execs Discuss UK Action Sports & Upcoming Trade Show

In the summer of 2011, 40 brands got together to fill the UK’s vacuum of action sports trade shows and The Ledge was officially born to help facilitate and grow the industry in England and beyond.

“The main focus of the show is to bring everyone within the industry together,” says The Ledge Director Kelin Phillipson. “For buyers and brands to be able to do business, all together under one roof, with the right business environment has been a long time coming. It’s especially important during such difficult economic times when the general feeling is that businesses need to be able to see and quantify an immediate return on investments.”

The show’s mix of surf, skate, snow, FMX, and as of last summer’s show, streetwear, has proven to be a successful cocktail. On January 25-27, 2013, the show will host over 250 brands from approximately 35 countries as The Ledge returns for its fourth round.

We caught up with Phillipson and The Ledge Coordinator and UK skate legend Matt Law, who also handles sales and the show’s skate competition, to learn more about The Ledge and doing business in the UK.

Why did you decide to launch the Ledge in 2011? What gap did you see in the market?

The Ledge Show Director Kelin Phillipson

The Ledge Show Director Kelin Phillipson

KP: The UK market has needed a platform to showcase action sports and streetwear brands for some time now.  London is one of the leading fashion capitals of the world as well as being an incredibly exciting city to visit. Our venue, Olympia Exhibition Centre, is a high profile, historic, landmark building located in central London and is perfectly positioned amongst countless restaurants, hotels, bars and shops including the famous Westfield Shopping Centre. The transport system to and from Olympia is excellent with the ‘Olympia’ mainline station on the doorstep, numerous underground stations all around, plenty of parking, and Heathrow easily reached, which is ideal for our many international visitors and exhibitors.

How has the show grown since that time?

KP: Each show has grown significantly as has the support from the relevant brands and retailers. To put it in perspective, the very first show began with 40 brands and we are now coming up to our fourth show with 250 brands showcasing

What brands are coming? How about buyers?

ML: The brands at the show are very varied and cover all actions sports including Skate, Surf, Snow, and  FMX. We are working on pulling in more disciplines and building on the types of brands that are already on board by building a solid foundation.

We’ve a broad range of retail visitors who attend from department stores, high street chains, small multiples, etailers and key independents

KP: Brands include Osiris, DVS, Etnies, Huf, Dickies, Nike, Hurley, Metal Mulisha, Dragon Alliance, and The Hundreds.

Matt Law

Matt Law

What are the highlights of the show? What makes it different?

ML: The main highlight of the show is the sheer variety of brands all exhibiting under one roof. There’s no other UK show that is able to offer retailers such diversity.

The skate comp aspect of the offer, is also a huge attraction and point of difference. With two side by side mini ramps, endorsed by Osiris and supported by Sidewalk, skaters from all over the UK, and sometime further, make sure they get to the show, hang out, skate and compete. It’s a sure fire way of injecting yet more atmosphere to the trade show environment.

Last season the new streetwear village was launched. Due to the exceptional quality of the brands exhibiting, this instantly became a key attraction for retailers. Examples of brands within Streetwear include: Huf, The Hundreds, Brixton, King Apparel, Dickies, Any Forty, Hype Clothing etc.

KP: The format and ethos of the show is what really makes us stand apart from other exhibitions. By stripping back some of the common trade show rigidity and relaxing the rules a little, exhibitors and buyers are able to have a much more positive experience before, during and after the event.  This has enabled exhibitors to showcase their brands in a way that authentically represents the markets they serve. For example, the majority of exhibitors in our action sport arena are setup with branded pop up tents which is exactly as you’d expect to see the collections displayed within the youth culture markets. As well as being incredibly effective, true to the nature of the product and very easy to set up, it also allows everyone to exhibit on the same terms and relax just that little bit more. Once again, making a positive contribution to the process of doing business and adding hugely to the atmosphere.

Another major point of difference is that we are a small exhibition company. This is important because we strongly believe in working co-operatively and in harmony with the industry. A a result we invest a lot of time in discussion with partaking companies who offer feedback as to how the show can improve. We then work hard at implementing these improvements. This has led to significant industry support built on increasing mutual trust & relationships.  Furthermore, contracting action sport industry leader Matt Law to advise, and work with us on sales, marketing and general industry know-how has contributed massively to the success of the show and has proven invaluable in making sure that we have what it takes to serve the market as required.

The Ledge skate comp

What are you doing differently this winter? 

KP: Apart from adding new brands to the show and significantly growing the streetwear village, we are really opening up to include more brands from all of the action sport disciplines to really make it that ‘all encompassing’ show that has been a long time coming! Ledge’s roots were in skate but now, spurred on by popular demand, we have grown to offer much, much more and this is evident by the huge array of brands on show.

This season the show skate comp has reverted back to dedicated shop comps to allow us to give back to the industry and support it as best as we can.

Why should US-based brands exhibit there? Put your sales hat on and sell me!

ML: It’s important not only for US brands but also any brands for outside the UK to be at The Ledge and showcase what they are about. This show has countless key actions sports & streetwear brands exhibiting under one roof. This, in turn, means that their key retailers will attend.

Many, if not all, of the UK reps use this show as an order writing show. They treat it as their own elite a showroom by booking appointments to make sure all of their customers attend.

For any brand that is trying to establish itself in the UK or grow their customer base, this show is a must. There are so many brands and competition in the market and a brochure in the post will just not work. You really need to network, meet and greet the buyers to get yourself noticed.

KP: With an average of 34 counties attending each show, it is the perfect opportunity to build an international customer base! Also US brands typically do very well at our shows because our retailers are always on the look out to buy into new product that will set them apart from everyone else. Where better to look than from the other side of the pond as, it’s no secret that, US brands certainly offer heavy duty kudos with consumers around the globe.

Additionally, and importantly, we are one of the most commercially priced European trade shows on the calendar. Add this to the fact that we focus very much an ‘onsite order-writing’,to achieve a healthy return is undoubtedly achievable.

Goals for this winter’s show? 

KP: We intend to spend lots of time talking with brands face-to-face gathering that invaluable feedback that will help us improve and grow again next season and beyond.

We will endeavor to go above and beyond to ensure that The Ledge is a hugely positive experience for everyone involved and exceeds expectations,to strengthen existing customer relationships whilst building new ones, to diversify further to embrace all dimensions & disciplines of the action sport, streetwear and urban markets, and to continue to live up to our slogan of “For our Industry, By our Industry, Supporting our Industry.”