With no presence of Deluxe, TumYeto, Dwindle, or DNA Distribution brands at this year’s Long Beach ASR trade show, absenteeism in retailers seemed high.
However, Kevin Flannagan, group show director for ASR, was pleased with the turnout, he noted that exhibitor presence was strong. Despite the slowing of growth, Flannagan feels the show was a success: “Considering the economic climate, we were very happy.”
Flannagan understands why some retailers have branched off to host their own shows, but feels that the skateboarding industry is still better off with one all-encompassing show: “We see the benefit of having dedicated shows that bring the entire industry together. The independent shows benefit the manufacturers from a standpoint of being able to market themselves, but we see a limitation in terms of retailers’ ability to support these shows on an ongoing basis due to time and money.”
Rather than shun the show altogether, some companies held their own private shows within walking or driving distance, such as Aesthetics/Elwood, Monkey Business, and Girl Distribution. The remainder of the industry got together like always, and a heated topic this year was the growing market for pricepoint boards and pricepoint shoes.
Aesthetics/Elwood rented out a fully catered conference room in the back of King’s Fish House in downtown Long Beach. Similarly, Girl decided to hold an open house at their office in Torrance.
Inside the convention center, the subject of Chinese manufacturing was still a major issue. Santa Cruz Team Manager Shawn Sterken comments, “We know that other companies have looked at it, so we’ve looked at what they’re looking at, and we’re just sticking with our woodshop. We know we have good wood here and everything’s taken care of. We don’t see any point in going over there (China).
“It’s always worth checking out what other people are looking into,” he adds.
Over at Skate One Distribution, Promotions Manager Michael Furukawa explains their use of Chinese wood-birch, to be exact-and how they limit its use to the Grom series of the Andy Mac line of complete skateboards. “We know it’s good quality wood because George (Powell) has been working with the manufacturer for a while,” says Furukawa.
The Andy Mac line carries the same warranty as the other Skate One decks, like Powell and Mini Logo, and will attack the pricepoint market while aiming to be of better quality than other completes sold in the mainstream market. “These other companies (mainstream shops) are putting junk in kids’ hands,” explains Furukawa. “Then kids aren’t going to get a good experience with skateboarding, and (they’ll) be over it. This is a niche that the industry totally missed.”
Many shoe companies at ASR shared similar ideas, and the majority of shoes displayed were toned down and stripped of superfluous features. Rather than designing excessively flashy shoes, companies are focusing on pricepoint models. Adio Brand Manager Dave Ahumada says, “We’d love to put an air sole on every shoe, but we also want to make our shoes affordable for both shops and kids.” Ahumada says clean shoes and basic designs are not only cheaper, they’re what the riders are looking for: “The pros have a lot of input designing their shoes and want their shoes to be simple and clean.” Rather than focus on technological advancement, Adio is focusing on clean designs and comfortable shoes. Ahumada says, “We are making our shoes as comfortable as possible from the get-go, because really that’s all the kid in the shop has to go on.”
Genetic has taken the idea of an affordable shoe a step further by offering Bucky Lasek’s pro-model shoe in a pricepoint version. Mariana Singer, account services director for Taré 7, the holding company for Genetic and Airwalk, explains: “Kids want something with a pro name on it, and Bucky was looking for more of a basic, lifestyle shoe anyway.” Genetic plans to have a pricepoint version of each of its pro models by Spring 2004.
However, not all skate-shoe companies are streamlining. Sole Technology has decided to pursue a brand-new field of research and development. Sole Technology Institute (STI) bio-mechanical research scientists John Hagy and Ned Frederick have been studying the amount of impact a skater’s foot goes through in an in-depth study at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Sole Tech PR Representative Timothy Nickloff explains that the company is addressing current trends, and he feels a study of this depth is warranted: “There are more pricepoint shoes in all three lines, but we’re developing technologies that will help advance skateboarding.” Results of this study can already be seen in Sole Tech’s Gel 02, an impact-absorbing feature that’s currently available on the Etnies Response shoe.
Although boycotted by both small and large companies, there are still some who stand by ASR’s reliable boost to their business. Vans PR Manager Chris Overholser says, “Our set appointments are really important, but you still want to have a lot of traffic-people stopping by-and that’s something that ASR is good for.” Dwindling attendance, however, means dwindling traffic.