A Trade Show Of Their Own

Glissexpo and ASR trade shows share as many differences as similarities.

At first glance, Glissexpo seems a lot like its older second cousin from America, the Action Sports Retailer Trade Expo. Both are held in massive convention centers, both turn the spotlight onto the world of “action sports” (e.g., surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding, skimpy bathing suits, clothing, and all the accessories and trends that orbit these categories like so many discarded satellites), both shows are also hugely influenced by skate culture, and they both occupied the same weekend this fall.

But don’t be fooled by the tropical tans on the Parisian bathing-suit models, the palm-frawn-decorated booths, or the after-hours keggers hosted by the big surf companies¿Glissexpo isn’t ASR. While similarities abound, the Paris-based show held twice annually (summer and winter) at the Paris Expo in the Porte de Versailles has a European flavor that can disorientate even the most seasoned of ASR vets.

From its location in the southwest corner of one of the world’s most vibrant cities, to its tolerance (nay, encouragement) of indoor cigarette-smoking, to its typically European lack of air conditioning or iced soft drinks, Glissexpo hits you like a wave. Its smells, sights, and even its sounds are distinctly non-American, with French, German, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Italian, and a half-dozen other languages melting into a low hum of rolling Rs and gender-specific adjectives.

The differences extend beyond the tactile and into heart of the show itself¿the exhibitors. Unlike Action Sports Retailer, where new faces, companies, technologies, and marketing campaigns make their first public appearances to either glorious fanfare or silent defeat, as I strolled the aisles of Glissexpo I got a strong sense that it’s less a trade show of pomp and circumstance than an exercise in stability. The European market is a finicky one, catering to a consumer who’s educated about current trends, but whose funds are limited, and whose window to participate in their chosen sport is smaller than in perpetually sunny Southern California. As a result, Glissexpo features a large number of exhibiting distributors who’ve combined strong and often wide-ranging product lines in order to survive long, snowy winters.

This year Glissexpo itself made a move to consolidate as well. Historically held on the beaches of Biarritz (France’s answer to Waikiki … sort of) with sand as a floor and tents for a ceiling, this year the show’s organizers packed up their decade-old beach party and moved it about as far from beach culture as one can trek. The move to Paris seems to be a sore point for many repeat visitors who comment on everything from the high price of Parisian hotels, to the generic feeling of being in a warehouse instead of on the beach, to missing being able to go for a quick surf at lunch.

“This decision was made to accommodate visitors from Northern European countries,” says Glissexpo marketing assistant Stephanie Protet. Shrugging sympathetically, as if she feels their pain, Stephanie adds, “We used to be on the beach, which is more in the spirit of Glissexpo, but the move to Paris is a step toward becoming a more professional show.” Noontime surf sessions aside, this is a point that even the most disgruntled of city-hating show attendee understands. Biarritz is small, and during the summer it’s nearly impossible to book a hotel room in. It’s also far off the beaten path, as opposed to Paris, which is a direct flight from almost every major airport on the planet.

Peter Dericks, marketing manager for Vans Europe, doesn’t seem too bothered by the lack of surf. On the contrary, he likes the new location’s proximity to the thousands of skate spots that litter Paris. Peter says Vans uses the show as a tool to stay in touch with the hardcore skate retailers of Europe: “At Glissexpo our mentality is to only show our Signature Seriescore, technical skate shoes. This is the show you go to if you want to reach skate shops and places that carry skate hardgoods. More and more, trade shows are about having a presence. We’re writing less and less orders at trade shows¿here it’s about being seen as well as seeing what’s going on.”

As Peter and I conducted our little interview next to the show’s street course, our conversation wandered onto the topic of the strength of the European skate scene. He pointed to French future-superstar Bastien Salabanzi, who drew massive applause from the crowd that gathered for the 2:00 p.m. demo, and said, “It’s really strong, the only problem is you can sponsor an amazing rider in France, but his coverage is restricted to France.”

Another burst of applause erupted from the crowd, and we turned to see England’s Howard Cooke roll away from a gigantic kickflip over a funbox. Peter used the moment to further illustrate his point: “For example, Howard Cooke is a sick English skater, but if you go into Germany or France and ask skaters if they know who Howard Cooke is, the majority of the skaters you ask won’t know. I think it has a lot to do with the media. There’s no global-type skate publication in Europe. We try to do stuff like organize contests in France and bring English skaters to compete there, that way the French media gets familiar with them. But as it is right now, if they really want to make it, they have to move to The States.”

But as their skateboarding scene strengthens, one has to wonder if European skaters won’t one day be able to make an impact on the global skate scene from the comfort of their own country. If Glissexpo’s ability to differentiate itself in a positive and meaningful way from America’s ASR can be used as a barometer, the future for Europe’s talent looks like a bright one.

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WCS Vert Competition
Glissexpo Festival, Bercy Sports Arena
Saturday, September 9, 2000

In an attempt to mix its business with pleasure, this fall’s Glissexpo also included a World Cup skate contest at the nearby Bercy Sports Arena. The vert-only contest drew over 8,000 spectators, who watched Denmark’s Rune Glifberg skate his way to first place and the 10,000-dollar prize. The U.S.’s Sergie Ventura won the highest-air competition with a three-meter, 30-centimeter backside air (ten feet, ten inches). Despite being held on the same weekend as the San Diego ASR Trade Expo, the contest managed to draw world-class competitors who skated hard for four hours on a sticky Parisian summer night.

Vert Results

1. Rune Glifberg (Denmark) $10,000
2. Lincoln Ueda (Brazil) $5,000
3. Pierre Luc Gagnon (Canada) $4,000
4. Sandro Dias (Brazil) $3,000
5. Sergie Ventura (U.S.A.) $2,500
6. Renton Millar (Australia) $2,000
7. Jocke Olsson (Sweden) $1,800
8. Terence Bougdour (France) $1,500
9. Juergen Horrwarth (Germany) $1,200
10. Thomas Madsen (Denmark) $1,000
11. Andy Scott (England) $600
12. Marc Haziza (France) $500
13. Florent Viart (France) $500

Highest Air Results
1.
Sergie Ventura (3m, 30cm) $1,500
2. Sandro Dias (3m, 10cm) $700
3. Jocke Olson (3m) $500
4. Lincoln Ueda (2m, 50cm) $300
5. Terrence Bougdour (2m) $200

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Glissexpo And Action Sports Retailer Trade Expo
A comparison and contrast.

Glissexpo
Where:
Paris Expo¿Porte de Versailles
Year established: 1991
Number of companies that exhibit at the show: 500
Total three-day attendance of the show: 12,904 professional visitors plus about 8,000 spectators at the WCS Vert Competition
Perceived strongest sport: surfing
Smoking: heavy (it’s a cultural thing)
Booth that looked the busiest: Quiksilver
Air conditioning: Not even a little.
Price of one booth space: A nine-square-meter pre-equipped booth costs 2,362.50 F ($337.50).
Best feature: location
Biggest flaw: lack of air conditioning
Next time the show happens: January 27¿29, 2001 (same location)
Directors: Richard Harnie-Cousseau (Marketing), Alain Sevellec (Sales), Ricardo Musafir (Operations/Finance)

Contact information:
Gliss’ Promotion SA
Fair Team Group
20 rue Maryse Bastié¿ZA Maignon
64600 Anglet, France
Phone: 00 33 5 59 42 51 51
FAX: 00 33 5 59 42 51 59
E-mail: glissexpo@fairteam.com
Web: glissexpo.com

Action Sports Retailer
Where:
San Diego Convention Center
Year established: 1981
Number of companies that exhibit at the show: 575
Total three-day attendance of the show: 20,261 (approx. 17,000 of which attended the first day)
Perceived strongest sport: skateboarding
Smoking: In California?
Booth that looked the busiest: Reef (guess why)
Air conditioning: Yes, thank God.
Price of one booth space: A 100-square-foot booth (10 feet by 10 feet) is 1,975 dollars.
Best feature: leading action-sports trade show in the world
Biggest flaw: parking nightmare
Next time the show happens: February 3¿5, 2001 (Long Beach Convention Center)
Trade Show Director: Court Overin

Contact information:
ASR Trade Expo
310 Broadway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Phone: (949) 376-8144
FAX: (949) 497-8443
Web: asrbiz.comr>Booth that looked the busiest: Quiksilver
Air conditioning: Not even a little.
Price of one booth space: A nine-square-meter pre-equipped booth costs 2,362.50 F ($337.50).
Best feature: location
Biggest flaw: lack of air conditioning
Next time the show happens: January 27¿29, 2001 (same location)
Directors: Richard Harnie-Cousseau (Marketing), Alain Sevellec (Sales), Ricardo Musafir (Operations/Finance)

Contact information:
Gliss’ Promotion SA
Fair Team Group
20 rue Maryse Bastié¿ZA Maignon
64600 Anglet, France
Phone: 00 33 5 59 42 51 51
FAX: 00 33 5 59 42 51 59
E-mail: glissexpo@fairteam.com
Web: glissexpo.com

Action Sports Retailer
Where:
San Diego Convention Center
Year established: 1981
Number of companies that exhibit at the show: 575
Total three-day attendance of the show: 20,261 (approx. 17,000 of which attended the first day)
Perceived strongest sport: skateboarding
Smoking: In California?
Booth that looked the busiest: Reef (guess why)
Air conditioning: Yes, thank God.
Price of one booth space: A 100-square-foot booth (10 feet by 10 feet) is 1,975 dollars.
Best feature: leading action-sports trade show in the world
Biggest flaw: parking nightmare
Next time the show happens: February 3¿5, 2001 (Long Beach Convention Center)
Trade Show Director: Court Overin

Contact information:
ASR Trade Expo
310 Broadway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Phone: (949) 376-8144
FAX: (949) 497-8443
Web: asrbiz.com

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