Buyers mostly stuck with proven resources, reserving money for reorders and special orders if business picks up. Spring break will be a crucial indicator of future sales, they said.
Spring-summer goods offered bright, upbeat color palettes. Prints, from retro-inspired scenes like a hula girl on a Hawaiian beach or such abstract designs as optics, dominated collections. Embellishment is more toned down than last season, with more subtle application of glitz, studs and beads.
Buyer attendance was even with last year, according to officials at DMG World Media, Surf Expo’s producer. The three-day show, which closed Sunday at the Orange County Convention Center here, featured 2,000 booths and 860 exhibitors, compared to 760 last year.
With the exception of low-rise waistbands — the hottest thing for shorts, pants and swimwear — silhouettes changed little, as manufacturers jazzed up proven bodies with new colors, fabrics and washes. Although retro looks have dominated for years, the trend won’t die, as Seventies and Eighties influences remained important. Exhibitor Ocean Pacific relaunched its original Seventies line with the same fit and styling, in a new OP Classics collection.
Authenticity shown through individual expression is another important trend, said exhibitors. In product and marketing, images reflect real kids, rather than images of high-flying pro athletes seen in aspirational advertising and athletic endorsements.
For years, women’s surf companies — many that were spinoffs of men’s lines — have relied on athletic, surf roots for their women’s apparel, with board shorts and screen-printed T-shirts as core pieces. Now, the emphasis is on fashion, with broadened women’s lines including new categories and accessories, and a more feminine approach to design. Taking cues from sportswear, surf-inspired companies introduced lots of lace, ruffles and feminine details at the show.
Ron Jon Surf Shops shopped Surf Expo with a budget down around 20 percent, mostly due to sluggish junior business, especially in its Florida stores, said Nicole Meyers, buyer. Finding a replacement for Mossimo, which now sells exclusively at Target stores, as a key resource has also presented a challenge for retailers. However, the week after Christmas, which typically is as busy as spring break traffic, was better than plan, but still down from years past, said Meyers.
Praising the swimwear market for more newness than sportswear, Meyers bought Rampage’s stripes, optical prints and feminine ruffles and lace. She also bought Calico print swimwear to pair with denim. She placed orders for Guess Swimwear’s bright colors and modern tropical prints. Triangle tops and low-riders should be key shapes, she said.
Stephanie Williams, owner of Wahini Blue, a women’s surf and swimwear specialty store in Miami, shopped for spring and summer goods with a budget down 15 percent. Fall business was off, though sales picked up at Christmas, she said.
“We’re not a tourist destination,” she said. “We rely on locals, but nobody was in the mood to shop. We’re sticking with familiar accounts, not adding new ones.”
Williams’ core show resources were Billabong, Rusty, Roxy and Rip Curl.
She found newness in color and lighter-weight fabrics, but stuck with familiar silhouettes such as halters, capris and low-rise bottoms.
“I can’t make customers spend money, but there’s a lot of cute stuff out there if they decide to,” Williams said.