BOARD SHORTS, SWIMWEAR HOT AT ASR

Byline: By Kristi Ellis

SAN DIEGO--Board shorts and swimwear were the key items for buyers who not only took notes, but placed some spring business at the Action Sports Retailer Expo (ASR) show this month at the San Diego Convention Center.
While other directional junior and contemporary looks were also in demand, retailers, armed with slightly larger open-to-buys, were on the prowl for board shorts and swimwear.
The ASR show, held Sept. 6-8, began as a male-oriented, sport-specific apparel and equipment show for the beach, surf and snow markets, but it has evolved into a broader spectacle featuring swimwear, exercise and activewear and junior and contemporary styles.
According to the show's management, the event attracted 8,933 U.S. and international buyers from 5,000 retail stores and featured 765 exhibitors in 1,630 booths, compared with 668 exhibitors in 1,382 booths last year. Overall attendance was 19,439, up 13 percent over last year. Management also reported an increase of 25,000 square feet of display areas for 250 first-time exhibitors.
The majority of vendors showed lines for spring, combining fashionable and functional board shorts in satins, nylons and even denim with Sixties- and Seventies-inspired sportswear. Swimwear manufacturers featured two-piece halter-top and boy shorts combinations and techno fabrics, while activewear segments focused on key elements such as Lycra spandex leggings and boy shorts.
Roxy by Quiksilver, which showed swimwear and sportswear for spring, broke an activewear line at the ASR show.
The line features Tactel Lycra and mesh bodywear in such items as tanks, volley shorts, boy-leg shorts, bike shorts and leggings. Wholesale prices range from $8.50 for a ringer tank to $24 for Tactel Lycra leggings.
"We are also booking board shorts, T-shirts and halter tops like crazy for spring and summer," said Molly Pugh, a sales associate for Roxy.
She added that brights will dominate sportswear and swimwear for spring.
Raisin Co., based in Costa Mesa, Calif., showcased its four swimwear lines and broke a junior line at the show.
The Raisins junior swim line, which wholesales for $24 to $33, booked such key colors as mango, lime and royal blue for spring, according to Lindsay McGill, director of advertising design and marketing.
McGill said retro-inspired floral prints will be strong for spring. She added that halter tops and hipster briefs also booked well.
"Constructed tops with power pads and push-up bras are doing well, though the trend is moving away from them," McGill said.
With its Radio Fiji junior swim line, techno fabrics booked well. The satin ice two-piece with a skimpy bottom and triangle top also were key. Boy shorts continue to be strong, and the halter tank will take off for spring, according to McGill.
Raisin Co. also launched its Raisins Sportswear line at ASR, and McGill said key bookings included halter tank dresses in floral prints, tight skirts with matching halter tops, T-shirts and satin and denim board shorts.
McGill said ASR is not a big writing show for buyers, who generally place orders later.
Christine French, an owner of Nukumoi, a surf specialty store on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, said she was shopping for swimsuits, board shorts and cute dresses.
Shopping for wholesale prices ranging from $32 to $68, French said she planned to place a total of 10 orders for at least $15,000. She had placed orders with Rusty and planned to order from Roxy and Girl Star for dresses, board shorts and a couple of skirts.
Ted Young, general merchandise manager of Copper Rivet, a 14-store chain based in Salt Lake City, said he was shopping for spring and another holiday delivery.
"Women's business is coming back strong," Young said, but he added that his men's business was flat for back-to-school.
He said he shifted more of his open-to-buy to women's because he has had a decrease in sales in men's T-shirts and sweatshirts.
"Sportswear is finally starting to move," he said. Young pointed to lower-waisted and bell-bottom pants and the Sixties- and Seventies-inspired styles as the driving forces behind fashion.
He said he would place orders with Roxy for board shorts and professed interest in Rusty's junior line.
In swimwear, Young said he was looking at Body Glove and would probably place an order. He said he was seeking wholesale prices ranging from $48 to $80 in swimwear and from $25 to $80 in junior sportswear.
"I think that retro Hawaiian is coming back and will be stronger in sportswear and beachwear," said Young.
Two buyers for Archie's Beach Co., a three-unit chain in southwestern Ontario, Canada, said they were just taking notes at the show, but planned to place orders later.
"At home, there is a fashion craze over the surf scene, but it is fashionable, not usable," said Liisha Hindes, one of the Archie's buyers.
The two said they liked Girl Star for its fit and youthful touches. In the first 1 1/2 weeks of carrying Girl Star, the stores sold 33 pieces.
They also planned to look at such sportswear and swimwear lines as Stussy, Point Conception and Raisins.
Hindes said that volume is up by about 10 percent and is approximately 700,000 a year. Due to the increase, she said she planned to go deeper with Girl Star as well as with other lines.
"There is a lot of energy," said Michael Sharp, national sales manager for Girl Star.
He said Girl Star did do a lot of immediate business for cruise deliveries, but he doesn't expect to have all of the spring orders in until the end of October.
He estimated that Girl Star would probably book a total of $1.5 million in orders, based on paper written at and after the show. Last year the company did $650,000 in actual business.
For spring, big prints and bright colors are important with greens and fuchsias. "This is the season where yellows will break through," said Sharp.
The Sixties influence will carry over with hip-hugger pants and large block prints.
Girl Star, which wholesales from $8 for a T-shirt to $98 for a fully lined shantung dress, will also bank on Sixties-inspired styles such as hip-hugger pants in big block prints and halter tops.
Sharp also said board shorts will carry forward.
"They aren't a fad; they are a style," he said. Girl Star will feature that style in acid green and cobalt blue and cherry red nylon.

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