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Thrills and Chills

ASR Trade Expo — the granddaddy of surf, skateboarding and streetwear shows — is gearing up for its new and improved show season.<br><br><br><br>With a number of changes in store for the ASR Trade Expo’s upcoming 2003 show season,...

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ASR Trade Expo — the granddaddy of surf, skateboarding and streetwear shows — is gearing up for its new and improved show season.

With a number of changes in store for the ASR Trade Expo’s upcoming 2003 show season, it’s a wonder organizers of the seminal surf, skateboarding and streetwear show aren’t pulling 360’s or flying off the wall.

The Jan. 23-25 run at the Long Beach Convention Center and the second annual back-to-school/fall show March 11-12 at the Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa in Huntington Beach, Calif., both hit at least one week earlier than in the past to coincide with the production and delivery schedules of manufacturers and retailers.

(This will also be ASR’s last hoorah in Long Beach: After more than six years, it returns to San Diego Jan. 16-18, 2004, for the summer-fall installment.)

The 21-year-old show goes into the season with a renewed sense of strength, too. It proved its West Coast dominance when the influential Surf Industry Manufacturer’s Association announced in early November its endorsement of ASR’s three annual shows.

In return, SIMA will receive a share of show revenues. It’s a coup for ASR who had gone head to head with East Coast rival Surf Expo for control of the critical March b-t-s show, which both groups introduced in 2001.

In July, Surf Expo canceled its California event to focus on its East Coast presence at its two shows running Jan. 10-12 and March 4-5, said Dan Darby, director of marketing for show producer DMG World Media. “There’s no reason for both of us doing a show,” he said. “We’re working on our events and the expectations are great.”

The sentiment is the same for ASR officials as they prepare for their b-t-s show, the newly renamed ASR Fall Show. Kevin Flanagan, ASR’s group show director, said he expects a 50 percent increase in exhibitors compared to the 97 vendors participating a year ago. Registration numbers still aren’t available, but last year’s show drew about 400 retailers, mostly from California.

While a number of retailers endorse the earlier show, some concede the timing still doesn’t help. “We’ll attend the show, but it’s late for our business,” said Bill Rosenbaum, vice president of young men’s for Anaheim, Calif.-based Pacific Sunwear. “We like to close our fall by February and focus on developing spring.”

Still, Flanagan believes the show will build, especially considering the b-t-s season represents about a third of a retailer’s business. The more subdued expo — minus the vert ramps and the bikini-clad models — creates a stronger working climate, he noted. “This show focus is on product and for retailers and exhibitors to spend quality time together.”

It’s that atmosphere buoying expectations for manufacturers, such as Irvine, Calif.-based Ezekiel Clothing, who plans to break its fall line of surf and skate styles at the March event.

“We thought it was a great show last year, and think it can become more important than the January show since fall is so much more important than summer,” said Royce Cansler, Ezekiel’s co-owner and sales manager.

Added Dick Baker, chief executive officer of Irvine, Calif.-based Ocean Pacific Apparel Corp and SIMA president: “The whole youth sector is one of the ripe spots in the economy right now. We’re feeling very optimistic about the show.”

The January show, of course, retains all the the thrills-and-chills of its already popular vert-ramp demonstrations and other raucous activities. A pro motocross rider stunts along a custom course at the center for the first time in its 21-year history. The new spectacle meshes with the current fashion cycle, said organizers.

“Motocross is influencing fashions across the board, so it’s time to give it a bigger presence at the show,” said Flanagan, noting the growing popularity of Fox Racing.

To be sure, surf and skateboard companies representing more than 400 brands and vendors will still dominate the 200,000-square-foot exhibition hall, especially, Flanagan noted, as surf companies dedicate more booth space to junior lines.

Another novelty coming up in January is a renegade show. Organizers of the Agenda Trade Show are planning to create a minimalist atmosphere at a restaurant near the Long Beach Convention Center, with smaller, emerging designers and promote street art and music during the Jan. 23-24 show.

ASR officials said the competition is nothing new to the trade, and they’re not getting sidetracked.

“We work so hard and stay so busy organizing our events, that we’re not focusing on what others may do,” said Michelle LeBlanc, ASR’s marketing director.

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