Byline: Kristi Ellis

SAN DIEGO — Surf silkscreen T-shirts, cargo pants, shorts and dresses in retro and Hawaiian prints were the buzz at the Action Sports Retailer Show, held here last week.
But more familiar styles from previous seasons — longer-length board shorts, halters and tanks — held their own for spring transition.
Buyers were still looking for new resources they couldn’t find at other shows. And higher budgets allowed them to either take serious notes or write on the spot.
The three-day show closed Sunday at the San Diego Convention Center, and about 8,000 buyers representing 4,500 retailers turned out, organizers said. Exhibitor attendance rose slightly, with 725 exhibitors displaying 1,630 lines, they reported.
Overall attendance was estimated to reach 18,500, compared with 17,000 last year.
Among the retailers shopping the show, Suzy Madill, manager and buyer of Scavenge, a surf shop in Santa Barbara, Calif., said she planned to write more than $35,000 in orders. Madill, whose volume has doubled in six months, said that she was more optimistic about buying.
“I am looking for the bizarre, the purest in extreme wear,” she said. One of the labels she liked was Rebellious Bitches, which had a lot of “attitude.”
Madill said she was looking for the upstart companies “without brochures.” She said her customers are surf girls, Gothic girls and skate girls.
The shop offers lower-priced lines with T-shirts reaching $12 and shorts $20.
“We put non-labels with labels, and we find that they sell just as quickly,” Madill said.
Keely Smitt, buyer for Second Reef, with units in Laguna Beach and Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., said she was looking for swimwear and the standouts were Girl Star, Rusty and Roxy.
Among the trends catching her attention were board shorts, logo T-shirts and cargo pants.
Erin Sullivan and Jamie Regan, two buyers from The Beach Club, a surf shop in San Clemente, Calif., said they also liked Roxy and Girl Star. They were interested in cargo pants, board shorts and halters with Hawaiian prints and corduroys.
Coming off the best year they have had, they said they were looking for new resources. Standouts included Hazel, swimsuits from Pisces and shirts and pants from EDMC.
John Villescas, director of operations, and Mesilla Volley, owner of Beach, a store in Las Cruces, N.M., said they planned to write swimsuit orders. The store’s volume runs about $220,000 and has increased compared with last year, and its open-to-buy is up as well.
They noted that the color palette has moved into softer tones. “With swimsuits, the cuts are softer. There is a lot of mix and match, and there are more details like little ring fasteners,” said Villescas.
He noted that more conservative looks such as boy-cut bottoms are more popular, with customers moving away from thongs. Standouts were Mossimo and Body Glove, he said.
While buyers shopped for immediates and early spring, exhibitors used the show to display expanded lines and showcase licensed products as well as new in-house accessories.
Quiksilver’s Roxy division was bullish about its accessories and took an entire booth for the first time.
The firm featured licensed watches and eyewear and in-house leather goods, jewelry and sandals.
“We have been dabbling in accessories and this is the first full-on push,” said Randy Hild, vice president of sales and marketing for Roxy by Quiksilver.
Hild said that the best-selling items for spring have been silkscreen surf images on T-shirts, nylon cargo shorts and pants. Directional swim items include camisole tops and boy-leg bottoms.
“The New York clubwear feel with activewear looks is making a definite penetration into the surf market,” Hild said.
He noted that board shorts are still strong, though they have moved into longer lengths. Roxy offers the shorts in four lengths: three, five, seven and nine inches. Hild said that volume business is in the seven-inch length.
The wholesale prices on board shorts have also come down $1 to $2, Hild said. Novelty board shorts wholesale from $22 to $25, but the volume is in basics, which retail from $17 to $20.
Hild said that ASR is not a writing show, noting that the majority of business is done in follow-up appointments.
Another exhibitor building its brand and showcasing licensed products was Gotcha International, the maker of Girl Star. Joel Cooper, president of Gotcha International, said the show should generate more than $1 million in orders for Girl Star. But he didn’t expect to write a lot of business directly at the show, he said.
Cooper said the women’s and men’s booths would see about 140 accounts daily. Girl Star also doubled its space to display its new licensed swimwear line, which was launched in July.
Holly Sharp, design director of Girl Star, said that pants are at funkier lengths, ranging from short-shorts to Clamdiggers to “flood pants.”
“There is also a vibe on super-ethnic, more Hawaiian and Polynesian,” Sharp said. “It is everything from printed bottoms to accessories, which have that Shangri-la, geisha girl feel,” she added.
Rita Gingras, national sales manager of Ton Clothing, was showing fall/holiday and early spring. She expected to do less than $100,000 at the show.
Hot looks for fall and holiday include a floral stretch velvet car coat with matching pants and cheetah stretch velvet car coat with matching pants, Gingras said.
For spring, sporty Tactel nylon fabrics are strong, including a spaghetti-strap ankle-length dress with mesh middle and coordinating sport jacket and a long cargo skirt. She also expected a floral chiffon dress with a matching waterproof car coat, chiffon camisoles and knee-length dresses to sell well.
Gingras said cargo pants, overalls and skirts were some of the top items for fall and spring.
Wholesale prices ranged from $32 to $48 for velvet tops to $66 for cargo pants and $78 for cargo overalls. The velvet jackets were priced at $98 wholesale.
While browsing the Ton Clothing booth, Melissa Leal, manager of Nordstrom’s South Coast Plaza store, said, “We are mainly looking for cute coats that customers can wear now, as well as knee-length skirts. Business has been good, with a lot of girly stuff and lace and layered looks.”
Leal said that the cargo pants and shorts are just starting to take off in the stores. “It took a while to catch on,” she said.
She also pointed to fake fur and suedes and vintage as items on the store’s shopping lists.
The Nordstrom buying team was collecting line sheets and looking for new resources and 0 such as Ton and Roxy, Leal added.

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