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Action Girl Rides Into Surf Expo

Juniors’ trade show Action Girl Sports is riding into the Surf Expo Show.

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LOS ANGELES — Signaling girl power’s growing muscle, show producer DMG World Media has announced a partnership with Action Girl Sports, a juniors’ trade show, following AGS’ recent launch at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center.

Through a licensing deal, DMG’s semiannual Surf Expo in Orlando will present an Action Girl section inside the show, featuring 300 booths of apparel and sports equipment from categories including intimates, denim, hard goods, casual and resort apparel, footwear and accessories. Surf Expo officials are in talks with existing exhibitors that might relocate to the new enclave.

“Everyone’s talking about the growing importance of the juniors’ market, and this enables Surf Expo to better service its retailers,” said Dan Darby, marketing director for Surf Expo.

Action Girl founder Jaime Sparks said the move provides a platform to reach a bigger audience with her show, yet still gives independent players a chance to participate. Surf Expo usually attracts 15,000 attendees and its booth prices average $1,975, in line with Action Girl’s pricing strategy.

The partnership kicks off at the January Surf Expo and will run again in September 2004. Next year, Sparks also will run Action Girl in New York in March, as well as in August in Long Beach.

The inaugural show that ended July 19 drew a turnout that included Miller’s Outpost and Delia’s, but traffic could have been stronger, Sparks acknowledged. “The flavor of the show was there and it succeeded from a marketing standpoint,” she said.

Indeed, the show went against the m.o. of its brethren. Gone were the swag beer kegs and Hollywood-style exhibitor booths. Real girls modeled in fashion shows. Skate jams showcased women.

“It’s the first show that’s really about women,” said surf icon Holly Beck, on hand at the International Women’s Surfing booth promoting the organization’s services to amateur and professional surfers.

Fila Sportswear, showing off its new Metro collection of motocross-inspired shoulder-tie tops and dark denim jackets, skirts and pants for spring, was among the better-known brands of the 100 exhibitors, as were Everlast Worldwide and Etnies.

“This is so out of our box that we didn’t know what to expect, but we’re getting good exposure,” said Jennifer Gilbert, a Fila sales manager who met with Sports Chalet, Road Runner Sports and other retailers.

Casual clothing was on display, including the rhinestone-embellished T-shirts from Kookie Inc. and cotton and hemp-blended athletic sets by Natural High, along with wares from companies re-packaging male designs into female-friendly forms, such as the darted, bubble-gum pink wetsuits by Xpression Wetsuit and paisley-print snowboards at Snowbunny.

Retailers said they appreciated the number of new vendors at the event.

“I’m a new shop owner so I’m looking for fresh companies,” said Nicole Cunningham, owner of San Diego-based Kneede Spirit. Cunningham picked up shirts from Femme Athletic and SoundKase’s portable CD storage backpacks for her sportswear store.

New York-based Smitten chose to launch its clothing line at the show to appeal to West Coast buyers.

“There are lots of surfwear companies coming out of California with their feminine, tropical styles and we wanted ours to be slicker and cleaner,” said Smitten partner Diane Hawkins.

The line — done mostly in solids — offered cotton ripstop, enzyme-washed skirts with welt pockets, mesh skirts, “boob tubes” and retro-inspired swimsuits in color-blocked patterns.

Newcomer Chickabilly from Malibu, Calif., a rockabilly-meets-surfer girl line with Ts and coordinated trucker hats, picked up two orders and sold its samples on the show’s public day.

“We’re pretty happy with the results,” said owner Avelino Diaz. “Roxy dictates surf market style, so this is a chance for new little companies to compete.”

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