NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — Underscoring the growing importance of the year-end shopping season in the multibillion-dollar boardsports market, Action Sports Retailer staged its first holiday-focused trade show.

The event, which ran May 31 to June 1, featured 100 brands under a white tent erected next to a boat launch here, drew 500 buyers from core action-sports shops such as Sun Diego Boardshops and mainstream chains including Wet Seal and Pacific Sunwear of California.

Since the show’s timing was late — some companies, like Iceland’s Nikita Clothing, said they finished booking holiday orders in March — major brands such as Op’s women’s business and Volcom didn’t exhibit. The spring-focused September show attracted 7,000 buyers who came to check out 500 brands.

Still, some brands were launched at the show and others used it as a platform for rebranding.

Hot Tuna, after last year’s initial public stock offering and buying out its licensees and distributors, is repositioning itself in the U.S. as a surf-based, fashion-directed brand for 19- to 24-year-old women, with design and marketing offices in Garden Grove, Calif. Tim Bernardy, Hot Tuna’s chief executive officer, said the 37-year-old company expects U.S. wholesale volume for women and men to reach $3.5 million in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2007.

Ekka, owned by S2I Boardsports in San Clemente, Calif., launched a women’s tops-only line of tunics covered with hummingbirds and long-bodied Ts, all wholesaling for $13 and higher.

Buyers from Wet Seal, a Foothill Ranch, Calif., retailer that operates 309 namesake junior stores, said holiday is the second most important season after back-to-school.

Gift-giving buoys sales for Roxy, the $650 million women’s brand owned by Quiksilver Inc., of Huntington Beach, Calif. Dana Dartez, Roxy’s vice president of design and concept, said although holiday trends included skinny jeans and zip-up hoodies plastered in an allover print, there are no rules when it comes to dressing.

“The girls are wearing dresses over the jeans or the constructed [five-pocket] mini with leggings,” she said, adding that sales of warm-weather items like shorts can be extended for another six months into December when they are paired with boots and tights.

This story first appeared in the June 22, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

For the first time, Billabong divided its holiday collection into three groups differentiated by items: hoodies with toggles, Victorian-inspired lace and plaid Bermuda shorts. “We’re trying to create little packages so that it’s easier for the buyer,” said Mandy Robinson, Billabong’s design director in Irvine, Calif. She said holiday is a time for parties, and Billabong’s top seller was a jersey tank dress featuring three tiers of smocking and cross-back straps.

Companies upped the ante on perennially best-selling T-shirts and hoodies by decorating them with artist-designed graphics, foil, flocking and embroidery. Denise Jones, buyer for eight-store chain Pacific Brands Retail in Irvine, was drawn to bold graphics, including those by tattoo-inspired label Ed Hardy. “That’s something new I like,” Jones said.

Jodi Rea, sales representative for Fox Racing Inc., said the question about hoodies is, “Who else can make it more tricked out?”

An olive sweatshirt featuring a hood with sherpa lining and floral embroidery on the sleeves was one top seller for Fox, based in San Jose, Calif. The company will change its name to Foxhead Inc. in September to reflect a diversification from motorbike racing clothes to new categories of eyewear, surf and skate.

Holiday is a time to stock cozy items. Ada Snapp, co-owner of Hodad’s Surf Shack in Tehachapi, Calif., 120 miles north of Los Angeles, ordered thermal tops and jackets, among other items, from Hurley International, O’Neill and Fox. The trends she likes are skull prints, Eighties-inspired colors and designs, earth tones, including orange and brown, and longer bodies for tops. “I like the fact that everything is going longer instead of skimming the belly,” Snapp said.

Shorts were a surprise hit for holiday. O’Neill’s Bermuda styles in yarn-dyed plaid were popular, especially paired with hooded pointelle sweaters adorned with wood buttons, said Michelle Devine, vice president of sales for O’Neill, based in Irvine. HotPants also sold well. Rip Curl scored a hit with a black polyester number with a 2-inch inseam and turquoise pinstripes. “It’s the first holiday where shorts were so in demand,” said Catherine Breton, sales representative for Rip Curl in Costa Mesa, Calif.

Fur carried over from last year, lining collars, cuffs, jackets and hoods.

Black and white was a popular color combination for both Lost Clothing, which used it in polkadots and houndstooth, and Paul Frank Industries’ namesake label, which promoted a Sixties’ Mod theme. But muted hues of navy, charcoal, burgundy and olive dominated the palette.

Split and Hurley jumped on the trend of voluminous tops and narrow legs. For holiday, Split introduced skinny corduroy pants and roomy cardigans falling to mid-thigh. Hurley, a division of Nike Inc., spruced up leggings with a camouflage print incorporating a rose design.

Ezekiel said it would wait until next spring to introduce leggings. Though its customer is fashion-conscious, the Irvine company said she might take a season longer to adopt a new trend such as leggings. Instead, for holiday, the company offered a chocolate jersey wrap dress and a polyester chiffon tunic covered with tiny wildflowers.

MARKET TRENDS

  • Vintage-inspired cropped jackets covered in black or white fake fur. Also, fake fur on collars and cuffs, and sherpa lining in vests, corduroy jackets and hooded sweatshirts.
  • Zip-up hooded sweatshirts updated with allover print graphics, feminine embroidery and slimmer, body-hugging fits.
  • T-shirts and sweatshirts printed with gold foil graphics of birds and crests.
  • “Grandpa”-style oversize sweaters and cardigans, cinched at the waist with sashes and adorned with wooden buttons, often in cream, heather gray and other neutral colors.
  • Trenchcoats hitting just above the knee, in plaid, pinstripes and basic red, blue, tan and black.
  • Knee-length shorts in men’s wear-influenced patterns such as pinstripes and plaids, and muted navy, brown and black.
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