Byline: Kristi Ellis

SAN DIEGO — Activewear looks inspired by aggressive in-line skaters, surfers, skateboarders and BMX racers grabbed the spotlight at last weekend’s Action Sports Retailer Trade Expo here.
Hooded tops, board shorts in a variety of lengths, nylon pants and skirts with contrast stitching, and long-sleeved shirts with color blocking were key styles at the three-day show, which ended Sept. 11 at the San Diego Convention Center.
About 650 companies exhibited in 1,530 booths, down slightly from last year’s turnout of 700 companies in 1,600 booths, according to Court Overin, ASR’s show director. Some exhibitors expanded their booth space, Overin said. Quiksilver, for example, increased its booth space to 3,400 square feet from 2,400 square feet, and Bodywaves increased the size of its booth to 1,000 square feet from 800 square feet.
There were about 7,500 buyers representing 4,350 stores at the show — slightly ahead of last year, Overin said.
Joey Santley, marketing director for O’Neill, said the show was busier than last year’s, adding that O’Neill expected to ring up $1 million in business at the show. Board shorts account for 50 percent of the company’s annual business, with most shoppers looking for them in the spring and summer.
Mixing such bold colors as orange and red, and offering unusual waist treatments such as stitching in the shape of an arrow helped O’Neill generate show orders for board shorts. One style, trimmed with floral ribbon, was a standout, said Cindi Carper, director of merchandising and design.
“We are trying to put a lot of different stitching and details on board shorts,” she said. “We are also doing well with silhouettes that are strong in men’s, such as an S-curve pattern on board shorts.”
To update board shorts, which have been popular for several seasons, O’Neill offered longer lengths — five-inch or seven-inch styles. Nylon looks with contrast stitching — popular looks with skateboarders and aggressive in-line skaters — were important features in O’Neill’s spring line for juniors. Nylon and cotton pants with three double-faced pockets and pant legs with elasticized drawcords; an above-the-knee nylon and cotton skirt with reversible pockets and orange tabs, and nylon and cotton pants, which zip off into a miniskirt, were key styles.
Adidas observed its appearance at ARS by launching Das, women’s activewear and footwear geared for skate, surf and outdoor specialty boutiques. Das gained a lot of exposure and opened about 45 accounts at the show, according to Eric Lyon, marketing manager of Das apparel.
“The emerging trend is the BMX-style jersey that is fitted and fashionable,” he said.
One Das version has a crewneck, color-blocking detail and an Adidas logo imprinted on the center of the chest. Another BMX-inspired Das item is a boxy long-sleeved jersey with sublimated printing. Hooded tops, and a tank with a mesh T-shirt overlay were also key items in the 18-piece Das line, Lyons said.
Buyers at the Das booth also liked the looks of a hooded, sleeveless half-zip pullover with a kangaroo pocket, a hooded zip-front jacket, polyester and cotton twill utility shorts with rivets, colorful stitching and an embroidered Adidas logo, a long twill utility skirt with a drawcord waistband and a racerback tank imprinted with a flame on the front.
In terms of swimwear, Steven Gellis Sports Inc., the licensor of Body Glove swimwear, wrote orders for bandeaus, tankinis and bikinis with triangle tops and removable soft cups, according to Gary L. Mykes, sales manager.
Buyers were interested in the brand’s “cotton candy” collection of hand-painted purple, cobalt, mint and wild cherry swimsuits, microfiber shorts and cotton bandeau dresses; the “on line” collection of sporty swimsuits with stripe detail, and the “smoothies” group of brushed microfiber swimsuits, he said.
Evan Jasloff, head buyer for Blades, a 22-store chain with units in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, said he was looking for skirts with drawstring waistbands, nylon shorts, tube tops imprinted with dragon motifs and prewashed cotton T-shirts and shirts with long sleeves. Many of these styles are popular in the “skate-girl market,” catering to girls who skateboard, he noted. Aaron Chang, Slo Sport and Hi Time were among his favorite show resources for women’s apparel.
“Most of everything we’re doing is about nylon. Retailers are looking for different fabrications,” he said. “What’s happened is that some of the giants like Old Navy are putting pressure on the skateboard companies to use different fabrications and offer special details. You can’t get away anymore with a basic pant.”
Blades plans to open three new stores next year.
Sara Leonard, sales associate at Val Surf, a four-store chain based in North Hollywood, Calif., said she was looking for activewear, swimwear and junior sportswear lines that are not currently carried, to liven the assortment. American Eagle was among the resources she said she liked.
She cited tube tops, bandeaus and swimsuits with embroidery as her favorite looks at Roxy and Raisins. She also liked tie-dyed swimsuits, sequined tanks and board shorts in zebra prints, or such shades as turquoise or orange at Hurley.
Looking for fall merchandise, Justin Gennetto, assistant manager for Ron Jon, a four-store operation based in Cocoa Beach, Fla., said he was checking out Hurley, Billabong and O’Neill for board shorts, swimsuits, tanks, sweaters and pants.
He said he also looked at the new Das line and planned to follow up later.
Emmanuel Nadam, owner of Booth 7, a Los Angeles boutique that specializes in clubwear, said he was looking for young, edgy, flashy sportswear. He ordered pants, skirts and tops from Kik Girl, a new junior sportswear line with some activewear offerings. He said he particularly liked the satin items in bright colors.
Nadam also planned to order from Caffeine and Buggirl.
“In the denim market, [interest in styles with] wide legs have slowed, because people are more into technical looks in nylon and nylon and twill blends,” he said.
Lisa Riley, a buyer for Na Na, which is based in Santa Monica and has three California stores, said she was looking for fall and holiday items with embroidered flames, long nylon skirts and cargo pants.
Riley, who noted that the store sells a lot of vintage looks, said Johnny Suede’s Rockabilly styles were a standout at the show.