By  on June 22, 2005

LOS ANGELES — Even the casual observer may think the entire planet is suddenly skateboarding, thanks to this summer's media blitz over the silver screen depiction of Southern California's legendary "Lords of Dogtown."

The masses might not actually be ollying the city streets, but a big cross section of the population is copping the skater look, to the tune of $4.4 billion in annual sales, according to Board-Trac.

The ultimate resource for much of the product — both soft and hard goods — that makes it into the global marketplace has long been the ASR Trade Expo at the San Diego Convention Center.

Now in its 24th year, the twice-yearly trade show rules the action sports category, which includes, besides skateboarding, surfing, snowboarding and streetwear. In recent years, the show has also counted a growing junior/young contemporary segment among its 500 brands.

For the Sept. 9-11 show, ASR is focusing on the retailers among its 7,000 registered attendees, according to show director Kevin Flanagan. "We've made a big push, starting with the content of the show, from new brands to correspondence with attendees. The industry has reached a level of maturity with business that we have the tools to really talk to them by segment, as opposed to in general terms, as we did in the past."

Surf shops are being courted with the Quiksilver-sponsored Surf Shop Challenge, in which hard-core boarding retailers sponsored local wave riders in a series of competitions. Awards are being handed out at a splashy party Friday, Sept. 9, in the convention center's upstairs ballroom.

In the show floor's designated Style Neighborhood, retailers will discover the Gold Box Mission, a new area showcasing 10 small directional brands, including Cardboard Robot, Unified and Austis.

"These are brands that are either not large enough or their price points are steeper than what is on the main floor," said Flanagan. "We know through our research that the number one reason why retailers attend trade shows is in search of new products and new lines."

With this in mind, too, the number of fashion shows has doubled to twice-daily presentations the first two days of the expo. Industry vet Jill Lockhart is styling and staging the fashion show. Also new: men's wear on the runway.Skateboarding, of course, remains king at the show. The humongous vert ramp of previous shows, however, has been replaced by a 6-foot-high "mini" ramp with integrated obstacles built by Jim Bell and designed by Brian Schaefer.

And pro Erik Koston's "eS Game of Skate," which has become a regional contest, will host its finals on Saturday, Sept. 10.

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