In a press release by the Action Sports Retailer Trade Show (ASR) today, December 17, ASR provided an update on the state of action sports and their trade show including the big news that one of it’s largest and longest-running exhibitors’ Quiksilver, had pulled out of the show.
“As the action sports industry’s leading trade event, ASR is a direct reflection of the industry it serves,” said Andy Tompkins, ASR Group Show Director. “With retail sales off 30-60%, including action sports specialty, the entire market is feeling the reverberating effects. This includes manufacturers and in turn trade shows. But even in hard times, brands know to go with what works first and for 27 years ASR’s been proven itself as the place for brands and retailers to connect.”
However based on economic conditions, Quiksilver told ASR that they would be missing the January show for the first time since it was held in Long Beach, CA. ASR said that they are continuing to look for ways to work with Quiksilver and the industry and have done many promotional efforts including discounted hotels and exhibitor fees. Despite Quiksilver pulling out, some 425 other brands will be on hand, including Billabong, Volcom, DC Shoes, O’Neill, Rusty, Element, Rip Curl, Matix, DVS, Zoo York, NHS, Dwindle, Fox Head, and DaKine, along with several up-and-coming brands.
What’s interesting about Quiksilver, one of the cornerstone brands of surf, skate, snow, pulling out of ASR is similar to what we’ve already seen happening at MAGIC Fashion Trade Show. When the behemoth brand Converse (and Nike) pulled out of the South Hall a couple of years ago, and now Rocawear, it was quite telling in terms of the importance of trade shows and also the impact that large, expensive booths really had on a brand’s bottom line. Even Apple Computer is claiming it will pull out of MacWorld in the next year, and let’s not even get started with what went down with E3 video gaming trade show in 2006.
For many brands, the cost of having a massive booth on a trade show floor isn’t necessarily the most effective way to reach buyers and retailers. However what is coming out of this is the rise of cool, boutique booths, limited-edition low-fi stages to represent various new genres within brands and creating new hype and cred, i.e. Adidas Originals or Nikita at Agenda or Royal Elastic’s booth/art show at Bread & Butter or Swarovski Crystals’ “tree” at Project.
Quiksilver’s siteLA in Los Angeles for example, has proven to be a curiosity among a new, savvy, post 9/11 generation interested in the re-introduction of the brand, specifically their sophisticated un-Roxy women’s collection via an event space/residency intended for a select, rotating group of women artists -and not necessarily designers. As we wrote about last week in the review of Urban Outfitter’s Space 15Twenty, another interesting retail event space, re-invention of stores and brands has brought “informal” retail to the forefront, which goes to follow that perhaps trade show booths by brands need the same sort of transformation.
ASR, for their part, has created interesting new dynamics with the Gold Box Mission over the last few years for up-and-coming brands, skate event areas and competitions, and other aspects such as new attractions for motocross-inspired brands to make the show more interesting and interactive. Their new updated website reflects a much more user-friendly and progressive vibe. However action sports and a trade show dedicated to it has changed right along with the times. There’s such a crossover of street styles, music, technology, and new sports such as freestyle motoX, mixed-martial arts, even Parkour in so-called action sports-inspired fashion these days that the very classicication of what is and isn’t action sports is blurred. ISPO, the mega sports show organization in Munich, Germany, still struggles with this crossover “lifestyle” aspect.
In many ways, Quiksilver pulling out of ASR in January indicates many changes, and not just the difficult economy. You could look at it as a sign of the times for making change -for brands to reinvent themselves which is perhaps out of necessity now, but still may be a good thing for the future; for trade shows to be more like networking events that promote the crossover of different lifestyle subcultures rather than silo-ed booth blocks. And that may be what’s needed anyway.