By  on February 24, 2010

SAN DIEGO — The second edition of the Class@ASR trade show here showcased more than 200 exhibitors of the action sports sector’s high-end crossover fashion brands, with price and flexible ordering a common theme.

Exhibitors included contemporary men’s and women’s apparel vendors, as well as makers of swimwear and footwear, hats, watches and headphones, with labels such as Brixton, Converse by John Varvatos, Insight, Lira, MG Black Label, Rvca, Todland and Violet Love.

The show drew more exhibitors than the inaugural expo, in contrast with the ASR show downstairs, which hosted a smaller crowd typical of the winter show. Class@ASR, a partnership with the larger Action Sports Retailer expo and an offshoot of the Santa Monica, Calif.-based Class trade show that launched in 2008, started in August with about 150 exhibitors.

“ASR is not a typical show that I’d attend because we are not a surf-centric retailer, but I’m impressed with the contemporary brands that are on the floor up here. It’s not as urban as what’s downstairs,” said Sinisa Ristic, owner and creative director of Let’s Go Clothing and Footwear in La Jolla, Calif., who wrote orders with MG Black Label and Knowledge.

“We are very budgeted these days, to the penny — it’s painful,” Ristic said. “We have to buy much smaller quantities and a lot smarter. Before we could just buy whatever we wanted, and we’ve had to adjust.”

Buyers from chains such as Anchor Blue said they were delaying placement of orders until after the shows, and other buyers said they were still keeping inventory tight, saving funds for off-price purchases later in the season.

Mid- to low-priced garments fared best, such as Insight’s tanks that wholesale for between $12 and $18 and dresses in the $28 to $37 range.

“People are very conscious of how often they will wear something when looking at prices, so it’s very much a calculation for them,” said Katherine Vilanova-Matura, a buyer for Carlen Enterprises, an off-price wholesaler. “The combination of design and functionality is what translates into wearability, and that’s what we have to dig for when we’re buying.”

Retailers weren’t the only ones making changes in response to the economic downturn. Exhibitors such as Comune, which is carried in Urban Outfitters, American Rag and Oak, have adjusted sales strategies, abandoning minimums on retailer orders. Denim from the line retails from $54 to $72, and Comune representatives said the low prices were a big factor in establishing retail distribution.

“People are still chasing the next hot brand, something that’s not already in every store,” said Matt Davis, Comune’s vice president of sales. “Having said that, there’s still a lot more opportunity given to the brands with existing distribution within stores — it’s a safety thing. For us, it’s great, because we are past the trial stage, but for some of the brands just starting out, it’s tougher.”

“It’s always better to err on the side of having not enough [merchandise] than having too much, said Jono Hicks, a buyer for Coalition, based in San Luis Obispo, Calif. “I think everyone got burned by having to clear stuff out and discount really deep, and the memory is still fresh. These are hard times still, and buying budgets are based on bad numbers from last year. It’ll take awhile to really loosen up.”

To encourage sales, show organizers flew more than 150 buyers to San Diego and paid for trip expenses.

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