Massive white tents forming a U-shape glistened in the sun in Anglet, on the southern Basque coast of France from July 6 to 8, where ASR debuted its European trade-show event.
Close to 1,500 buyers attending from all over Europe walked through the show by the end of its first day. The number of unique buyers over the three days of the show totaled 2,200. There were 160 exhibiting brands, including some of the action-sports industry’s largest. At the same time, the skate presence was significantly smaller than that of surf companies. Approximately ten percent were skateboard brands, says ASR Group Show Director Kevin Flanagan.
Major skateboard-related brands present at the show included DC, Vans, Hawk, Grind King, Think, Tech Deck, JART Skateboards, Organika, Kingpin, Circa, Globe and Gallaz, Clive, Carhartt, and Evos Shoes. Volcom, Quiksilver, and Billabong also exhibited.
Steve Walters is the manager of Route One, a chain of eighteen skate shops in the UK. “My first impression is that it’s very surf-oriented, but it feels like there’s quite a nice vibe,” he says. “I often think that surf is really the fashion element of skate, and the line is becoming less and less visible because the skate (shops) grab a hold of the fashion element as they need it to survive.”
Asked why he and Route One Senior Buyer James Appleby decided to attend the show, Walters presents a dose of optimism: “To support the industry, because by going to the show you give back to the industry a little bit. And you talk to people and pass knowledge. Yes, we all enjoy the sport, but to protect the sport we’ve got to have a professional view as well.
“Our main reason is always to feel the vibe, find out what’s happening in the industry, and see what’s going to happen in Spring 2004,” adds Walters.
The show grounds featured a vert ramp and full street course. Morgan Bouvant, marketing manager at France’s V-7 Distribution, is also the owner and director of ICON, an action-sports events company. ICON worked closely with Don and Danielle Bostick of World Cup Skateboarding (WCS) to organize the trade show’s demo and street course that was built by Germany’s G-Ramp company.
Bouvant says ASR approached him this spring to have the European skateboarders come to the show, and for assistance with various aspects of the street course, demos, and music. Asked how he feels the European market responded to news that ASR was to have a show there, Bouvant says that people reacted with mixed feelings: “Support was half and half. Some people haven’t come because they want to wait and see if the show does well. If they think there are a lot of people and support, they’ll come next year.” Bouvant says that with Munich’s ISPO being only a week before ASR in Anglet, it’s been difficult for a lot of companies to come even if they want to: “ISPO is a huge organization and has been for a long time. Maybe we need two trade shows-I don’t know. They are two very different places, and Germany is very far from here. Who knows, maybe Spain also needs something.”
Danielle Giglio is the international sales manager at El Segundo, California-based Dwindle Distribution, and after ISPO in Munich, she traveled to Anglet for the ASR show. “I liked the setup and intimacy of the (ASR) show,” she says.
“Having the street course and vert ramp in the center of activity gave it a good energy. I would liked to have seen a larger skate presence at the show, however, overall I would definitely return next year.”
Flanagan feels the show was a huge success, and considering the event was organized in only six months, it surpassed any of ASR’s expectations. “I thought it was a sick show on any account. With the location, the retailers and exhibitors that were present, it was a really targeted killer event,” he says, adding that he is optimistic about the potential growth of the skate industry at the show. “I think what we saw at the show was the foundation for a good skate presencee for the future.
“I think it was difficult for a lot of people to make the decision to attend and allocate resources, but I think everybody who attended the show felt the skate vibe and the presence and was stoked with the event.”
Flanagan doesn’t feel the proximity to ISPO dampened skateboarding’s attendance and interest in ASR. “I don’t think we had one complaint from an exhibitor who wasn’t able to get their booth from ISPO to ASR,” he says. “I think it’s more the fact that it’s a new show, and there’s a lot going on in Europe with tours and different contests. But clearly I feel like it’s going to catch on as a destination spot for skaters and skate companies to attend.”
The largest action-sports trade show in France prior to ASR’s debut this year was the now-defunct Glissexpo show. Launched in the mid 90s in Biarritz, the show eventually changed ownership and moved to Paris before closing its doors months before a show was scheduled to occur this summer (of 2003). However, Glissexpo’s fate didn’t affect the launch of ASR Europe, says Flanagan: “We just focused on producing the best show possible in a very short amount of time and figured if we put on a great show, people are going to come. So we didn’t really get involved in any of the politics with the former shows or former employees.” And while many of the American and European distributors were walking the aisles, the vast majority of the skateboard industry opted to watch the ASR launch from the sidelines. Their absence was noticeable.
Kevin Mitchell is the international sales manager at IPath footwear. “From what I understand, this wasn’t much different than the Glissexpo-a heavy surf presence, lots of local companies, and mainly French retailers,” he says. “Because ISPO has these markets covered, I’m not sure if the Biarritz show is necessary unless you’re Volcom, Billabong, Quiksilver, or Op.”
Flanagan agrees that the European market is very unique in comparison to the U.S. market. “In Europe all of the countries have their own identities, and especially with the EU being formed, they’re trying really hard to hang on to their identity and their culture, because they’re really concerned about everything being homogenized,” he says. “So for us, that was an important factor in our decision to open a local office and hire a local staff to work permanently. One thing for sure was that we didn’t want to take the ASR show from the U.S. and plop it down in France. We wanted to work with the local customs and cultures. Like with the food-we didn’t want to serve San Diego show dogs.”
The seaside trade-show location adjoined the beautiful Chambre d’Amour beach of Anglet, only two kilometers and a ten-minute bicycle ride away from the nearby town of Biarritz.