Photos by Tom Wallace

Of course Action Sports Retailer (ASR) January 22-24 in San Diego was smaller, but that was to be expected. Oddly, because it was so small, it seemed more packed and there were some brands that actually got more attention because the big guys like Quiksilver and Hurley had pulled out, and other large brands scaled down their booth spaces such as Volcom, or moved into upstairs conference rooms, like DC. On the main floor, there were definitely more art-inspired events going on like the HOPE campaign, and an excellent green section dedicated to the green aspects of action sports apparel brands. Massive skate ramps and competitions took place on either end of the Hall and there was also the ASR Fashion Runway area, which filled up the dedicated show space fast.

However while most talk was about how hurting the economy was and who was scaling back where, many booths were busy, like Von Zipper, Livity Outernational, iPath, Zoo York, and Vans, which seemed packed all day everyday, and Sitka in the Gold Box Mission, and WESC who jumped ship from Agenda (along with In4mation) to head back to ASR. The only big-box booth left standing was Billabong and again, the fortress aspect where you couldn’t see anything inside just seemed dated. But if their boardshorts display was any indication, they’re sticking with bright neon colors and painted patterns.

Vans booth display–their booth was crowded throughout the show

Nixon was sleek in a very modern, Rubik’s cube layout with watches and now headphones and various other accessories. And it was a good indication to see that the non-profit organization Keep-a-Breast had its own booth on the main show floor representing an entirely full line of T-shirts and accessories of which proceeds go to the organization.

Keep-a-breast Featured and entire T-shirt collection

Podium Distribution which handles Matix, Lakai, and DVS had one of the more appropriate set-ups for the times called “Camp Recession.” It also represented the very woodsy, Pacific Northwest vibe of the apparel, colors, and patterns of many of the skate-inspired brands where the return to grunge, plaids, red, white, black, and turquoise checks ruled. You could even see this in sneakers such as DC Shoes women’s collection in red and black plaid which actually gave it a punk rock feel.

While people were hating on it, Ed Hardy Snow had a beautiful booth going on -all in white featuring their Hollywood-esque one-piece ski and snowboard suits in tiger stripes or white with tattoo patterns. They also demo-ed their hardgoods -snowboards made by Elan–with their signature tattoo sailor graphics. DC also showcased some of their snowboarding apparel including a long striped coat in green and blue. (Stay tuned on our update from SIA for more on snowboarding and skiing apparel.)

WESC was a highlight booth. Their Fall ’09 collection represents the mood of the marketplace with plaids, navy blue, and ’70’s-like knitted cardigans and pull-over sweaters. Their denim collection was also strong, including a direction towards a slightly wider pantleg in some silhouettes.

One of the surprise brands was Sitka out of Victoria, Canada. The T-shit graphics which matched aspects of their booth could be a poster, but their signature items (which are actually Sitka surfboards) were hoodies with a capped hood and unique cuts making them fit slightly different from normal hoodies. They also are conscious of organic materials, work with a tight thick flannel, and had a strong full men’s and women’s collection that deserves serious attention. (Stay tuned for a more in-depth story on Sitka soon.)

Volcom kept with their themed-booths, this time displaying a “Vee Haw” theme with a toilet-seat ring toss, hay bales, reps dressed in denim overalls and sporting fake big teeth, and backwoods music. It must have represented the launch of their Genuine Denim collection and maybe they were trying to be Wrangler-esque about it, but if they were, then they should have seen the Wrangler booth at Bread & Butter Barcelona last week and noted how they’ve taken genuine Americana to a much more desirable, authentic level. Frankly, Volcom’s shtick is so over, it makes them seem dated.

Overall, ASR still had a lot of energy and this was the time for smaller brands to actually get noticed, like O’Quinn, Elwood, AMBSN, Jedidiah, and Sullen. Motocross brands were also a big hit again such as Metal Mulisha, Famous Stars and Straps, Alpinestars, and Fox. However there’s still a growing divide between the surf-related brands and the skate brands. Many skate brands were also at the CrossRoads Retailer Show hosted by Black Box Distribution in Vista, CA a few days before ASR. If you look at the landscape of things at ASR and the changes that were going on at the same time with the X Games in Aspen, CO, and what’s getting the most coverage, it bears the question of what are action sports these days? Freeskiing? Motocross? Snowmobiling? Skateboarding? Ed Hardy Snow? Vee Haw Genuine Jeans? Designer headphones? Things are changing rapidly, and ASR is one of them as it continues to re-define itself. With ASR hooking up with Class for the Fall Show in September, such changes may be for the better.

Check back soon for some more in-depth stories on various brands from the show.

Billibong bright colors in board shorts

DC%uFFFDs new Snow Outerwear

Nice DC plaid shoes

Ed Hardy snowboards made by Elan with Ed Hardy signature tattoo pirate graphics

Sitka%uFFFDs detailed T-shirt graphics

Volcom’s Genuine Denim Jeans were highlighted–thus the “Vee Haw” theme

Excellent designs, including polka dot paint splashes, on WESC women’s collection