ASR, the Action Sports Retailer Expo, wrapped up in San Diego leaving the action sports and youth culture industries energized and optimistic for spring/summer ‘09 business. The three-day industry event brought together nearly 700 surf, skate, swim, snow, moto, lifestyle and street brands, 60 advocacy and environmental groups, 400 members of the media, and 6,000 buyers to conduct the business of action sports.
“The ASR show floor reflected a resilient industry that continues to produce amazing product lines, creative marketing and demonstrates contagious energy,” says Andy Tompkins, ASR Group Show Director. “ASR September attracted the best buyers from across categories, top media and helped keep the dream alive for the entire marketplace. Even in a challenging retail climate, ASR continues to be an important platform for industry sales.”
Retailers Write Aggressive Orders and Exchange Business Information
Although many attendees were concerned with the overall economy; top retailers were committed to a buying strategy. Thousands of retailers attended ASR September and brands reported writing big business.
“The highlight is always the people – and the ideas that they bring,” said Bob Hurley, President of Hurley. “I’ve been doing this show for a longtime and this is the best one I’ve ever been to in every way, the best business, the most fun and excitement. Excitement not only for us, but also for the whole industry. With all of the changes, acquisitions, vertical integration and Internet sales, it isn’t business as usual, but it is more dynamic and consumer driven than ever, which is exciting.”
Retailers utilized ASR to not only write orders, but also to strengthen business relationships, discuss marketing programs, and gather feedback on upcoming products, colors and designs.
“ASR is a good opportunity to network and see my brands,” says Doug Butcher, Owner of Industrial Board Shop that has 18 stores across the mountain states. “I brought out 20 managers this time. Going to ASR is both a motivation tool for managers as well as a way for them to learn about product and meet everyone in the industry in person.”
In today’s specialty retail environment, buyers understand that they need brand education and market insight to stay competitive. “There’s something about being in the trade show booth where you can see the whole line, some of the marketing, the ideas behind product and get the brand story right from the source,” explains Gorio Bustamante, Head Buyer for Evogear, Seattle, WA. “There is no other way to get that scope of information.”
International retailer presence was way up and many retailers including Chris Turck from XLR8R in Orlando, FL made the trip west. “For me ASR is a ‘Must Attend’ tradeshow where I have been able to find fresh new product from start up brands that may not have an opportunity to debut their lines in the Southeast,” he explained. “Additionally, ASR allows me to preview my core volume brands early enough to get a jump start on pre-book deadlines and take advantage of any margin building show specials.”
Footwear Remains a Strong Category for Industry Leaders
Over 60 brands showed footwear and many reported doing vigorous business. To meet the needs of extended footwear production cycles, DC Shoes pushed hard to have a summer line ready to show alongside spring at ASR September.
“Showing summer alongside spring maximized our retailers’ trip to ASR. We did enormous amounts of business during the three days,” said Jeff Pool, DC Footwear Sales Director.
Footwear brands included category leaders such as Reef, Vans, Nike 6.0, Adidas, Converse and DC along with many other up-and-coming brands with fashion, beach and skate roots. “The show seemed busy, some of the brands pulled out leaving even more business for those who stayed,” said Ryan Kingman, Element’s Marketing Manager from outside a booth full of appointments on Saturday morning.
Events Pack Show with Action
The ASR and Seventeen Magazine fashion show was filled to capacity with buyers and media trend-spotting for spring 09 on the high-energy runway. The theme “It’s Electric” showcased popping neon hues for swim and sportswear, mixed with fitted styling and a wide variety of accessories.
Automatic Magazine held its annual Battle of the Shops at ASR on Saturday afternoon. Over 20 of the top retailers in the West brought in teams to compete across various parts of the street course. Pacific Drive’s team took top honors with Pharmacy and Active coming in second and third. Last year’s winner, ZJ’s Boarding House, rounded out the top five.
In the ASR/SIMA Board Builders Pavilion, Billabong put on the ‘Art of Shaping: Hawaii Edition’ to showcase Hawaii’s greatest shapers and raise $40,000 for the Liquid Nation Ball. “The boards became a major conversation piece of the show – it was one of the greatest collections of work from Hawaii ever assembled in one place,” said Royce Cansler, Billabong, Retail Relations Director. The top bid of $10,000 came from Billabong’s Paul Naude for the George Downing Classic Hawaiian Gun.
Debut of Virtue: Powered by ASR
Virtue debuted at the new Hard Rock Hotel, across the street from the Convention Center, and featured 40 brands with lifestyle collections inspired from the cultures of mixed martial arts (MMA), freestyle motocross (FMX), tattoo culture, art and music. The new venue gave this exploding new market its first industry-only event.
Retailers who are just starting to carry products from these brands appreciated a focused environment to learn more about the market. “I picked up a lot of new brands this show; DC and some of the MMA brands including Bad Boy and Sinister,” said Yogesh Patel, Owner of Step Up, Tracy, CA. “Demand in my store is asking for MMA gear. I was happy with Virtue – it gave me a full view of that market in one place, which was great. I found what I was looking for straight away. 90% of the brands were new to me.”
Tapout, who showed at both ASR and Virtue, much more than paid for the brand’s complete presence in San Diego with one walk-up buyer. “Our booth was popping!” said Arika Helton, Tapout Director of Sales. “I had a walk-up appointment who did an at-once order of $500,000 and another sales manager wrote over a million dollars with another account all in one day at ASR.”
ASR returns to San Diego on January 22-24 for the unveiling of summer and fall collections. For more information on ASR, please go to ASRbiz.com