LOS ANGELES — The popularity of the California lifestyle shows no signs of abating, and as such the ASR Trade Expo and Agenda Tradeshow, both in San Diego, are growing steadily each year.
"With more and more retailers looking to action sports, ASR is the best opportunity to see the California lifestyle in living color," said ASR show director Andy Tompkins. "Our attendance has been up 15 percent over last year, and the market seems very strong."
The mix of hard goods such as surfboards and skateboards, and apparel, footwear and swimwear at the 26-year-old ASR create a big picture for buyers looking to bring the action sports lifestyle to their customers.
Although a great deal of the floor space at the San Diego Convention Center will be devoted to equipment pavilions and areas for test-driving goods during the Sept. 7 to 9 show, ASR continues to beef up its women's apparel and swim offerings, with an emphasis on new fabrics and styles. The January show featured 100 new brands among its 500 exhibitors.
As for new categories, ASR is hoping to do for the skateboard world what it did for surf 10 years ago. To that end, organizers hope to bring on a full-time liaison to reach out to skate retailers.
"The number-one thing retailers tell us is they're looking for new brands for skate, and one way to do this is to get smaller midtier brands back on the floor. That is good ammunition when speaking to buyers," said Tompkins.
ASR is also focused on educating buyers, who numbered 6,000 and 6,500 for the September and January shows, respectively. Of those buyers, about 1,000 to 1,500 come from outside the U.S., representing 35 countries. Twelve free seminars, which take place throughout the show on the mezzanine level, offer advice for retailers on how to market to their communities. And in the Buyer's Lounge, experts from the Board Retailers Association offer advice on how to plan orders.
In addition, Tompkins believes ASR has a global responsibility as well. "Big brands like Quiksilver, Volcom and Soul Tech have been leaders in environmental activism, and we are working with the Action Sports Environmental Coalition to do our part of providing a forum to discuss these issues," he said. "We are trying to become a platform to impact change as well, because now buyers want to know the products they are buying are more than just products."In addition to using recycled materials and wind energy, the show has cut down on paper use by increasing its digital outreach. "We've also just re-launched our Web site and hope that it becomes a year-round resource for buyers," said Tompkins.
ASR is also looking to expand outside of the U.S., most likely to Brazil or China. "There are already established European shows, and certainly it seems a little more mysterious to break into those other markets."
Entering its fourth year and ninth show, Agenda, taking place Sept. 7 to 8 at the San Diego Concourse, is beginning to redefine its role as ASR's artsy younger sibling.
"Every time we do another show, more big, serious corporate companies are coming over from ASR," said show founder Aaron Levant.
What started as 50 brands with a few rolling racks has grown to a 150-brand showcase where some companies, including Stussy, are using the same display booths they use at MAGIC.
"The show was really anti that in the beginning. I never envisioned we would have grown this fast, but we have to adapt and grow with them," said Levant.
The Agenda Web site features video interviews with more than 80 designers at the show, and "The Weekly Drop," a fashion show on Sirius satellite radio, will broadcast live from the show both days.
With the San Diego Concourse at its full capacity, Levant found himself turning away some 60 brands, while inviting first-timers such as Converse, Ambiguous, 2K Shirts, Veece, Tank Theory, Kill City, Nikita and Naked Ape.
"We have made the decision not to seek a new space right now and improve the quality at this venue. We know how bad it can be to have bad placement at a show," he said.
"When shows like Pool and Project got to this point, the attitude of their core brands started to change. So we are going to stay this big for at least the next two or three shows. It's a family environment and we don't want to take that step yet."
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