LOS ANGELES — Did somebody say recession?

Despite unfriendly economic times, trade shows are forging ahead with new installments. Action Girl Sports will bow July 17-19 at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, and Surf Expo will launch its California Resortwear Show Aug. 19-20 at the Queen Mary in Long Beach.

Though Surf Expo bowed out of its West Coast back-to-school presence last year, it’s taking another stab at the market, with a focus on activewear, swimwear and sportswear. Apparel Ventures, Tommy Bahama Accessories and Reyn Spooner are among the lines being featured by the 170 booths. So far, 300 buyers have registered.

For Action Girl organizer Jaime Sparks, the event is her answer to the highly fragmented trade show circuit serving the juniors’ market. Action Girl wants to consolidate everything female, with clothing split among juniors’ surf, skate, snowboard and urban lines and young contemporary labels, including Fila Sportswear and Sugar Kiss. Don’t expect to see many highfliers, such as Roxy and Billabong, however. Most of the 150 exhibitors are new to the scene, attracted to the show for its focus and pricing at $1,700 a booth.

ASR Trade Expo, held in San Diego Sept. 5-7, also is benefiting from the white-hot lifestyle category. Preregistration numbers are up compared with the same time last year, according to marketing manager Michelle LeBlanc, with buyers hailing from more than 30 countries including China, Hong Kong and Thailand. LeBlanc said SARS doesn’t seem to be having an effect, nor does the addition of another ASR show being held in Anglet, France on July 6-8.

“A lot of the brands like Quiksilver, Billabong and O’Neill show at both because they’re reaching different customers and buyers need both shows to get the whole picture,” she said.

Many trade shows say buyers’ wariness to travel has boosted regional attendance. Ethan Eller, manager of the New Mart building in Los Angeles and host of the Designers & Agents show, said the Los Angeles Fall II market that wrapped up June 10 saw a 19 percent uptick in buyers. He expects the trend to continue for the holiday-resort market Aug. 8-12.“We’re still seeing leeriness of people going to New York and we feel that we’re picking up that traffic,” Eller said. “We feel that L.A. is incredibly positioned for weak economic times.”

In the last two years, the New Mart, along with the Intersection, the neighboring building group comprising the California Market Center, the Cooper Building and the Gerry Building, has begun to advertise internationally.

Jennifer Uner, director of advertising and communications at the California Market Center, said improved outreach to retailers has also spread the word about trends in California.

“We think that in the past year, we have done a better job of communicating directly with retailers, alerting them to the resources and the benefits of our marketplace on the phone, in the mail and on the Web,” Uner said.

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