The ballroom of Huntington Beach’s Hyatt Regency hotel hosted the second annual ASR back-to-school trade show on March 11 and 12, with smaller booths and much less extravagance than at the Long Beach and San Diego ASR trade shows.
ASR Group Show Director Kevin Flanagan explains that, unlike the shows in Long Beach and San Diego, the back-to-school event is more of a regional show. “This show is focused on getting buyers form the Western United States,” he says, but retailers came from as far as Michigan, namely Noah Lekow, of Keego Harbor’s TWC Surf and Sport.
Despite only being able to stay for the first day of the show, Lekow feels the show is a success: “I got a lot of work done, we saw everyone we needed to see.” When asked how this show differed from the other, larger ASR shows, Lekow is positive: “It’s more personable than the other shows (in Long Beach and San Diego), we can actually sit and talk to reps here.”
In contrast to the premier back-to-school ASR show in March 2002, most exhibitors seem pleased. Volcom’s Kevin Braden says, “This show is definitely better than last year’s. We’ve got lots of accounts here now.” ASR’s Flanagan echoes this sentiment, explaining there are twice as many pre-registered retailers than last year, and more exhibitors. “We have 900 buyers preregistered, and we expect over half of them will show up on-site. Last year’s show we had about 114 booths, this year we’re up to 177.” One indication of this growth would be the presence of more hardgoods companies. World Industries’ Jamie Comstock noticed the growth as well: “I think there are way more people here now than last year.”
Exhibitors and retailers alike seem to find the smaller show just as productive, if not more so, than the larger shows. Counter Culture clothing’s founder Pat Fraley finds that the smaller shows give smaller companies a leg-up in a competitive industry. “This show levels the playing field. Everyone wants new clothing companies to come up, but at (the other shows) we can’t compete with the fortress-sized booths,” Fraley says. “It’s a lot easier to swallow the cost of this show, especially when we get the same amount of work done.”
IPath is one of the few show companies that exhibited at the show. Sales rep Travis Matsdorf was undecided about attending, but feels he made a wise decision: “We weren’t sure we even wanted to go, but we had just launched our clothing line, so we decided to go. And we’re glad we did-ASR gave us a good price, and we have a great location.”
Element found the back-to-school show a good way to display both their new clothing and new boards. Element sales rep Kevin Via explains: “We do four different lines each year, we’re showing our fall line now, and we showed our summer line back in Long Beach.” Via continues, “If we were showing the same line, this show would be a waste of time for us.” Via feels that, because they have new merchandise to display, the back-to-school event makes his job more efficient. “The regional shows are great, I’ll see fourteen of my accounts in two days.”
Productive for retailers and exhibitors alike, Flanagan is content with the turnout: “We’re finding that the retailers are coming because it’s productive, and they get a lot of good value out of it.” It had grown significantly since last year, and if it stays productive, it could grow even larger next year.