By SHELBY STANGER
Today in our trade show series, we hear from Surf Expo and Agenda what they have planned for their next shows and their assessment of their latest shows.
SURF EXPO, SEAN O'BRIEN, BRAND MANAGER
How was attendance at Surf Expo this past January? Was the show up or down and by what percentage?
Based on feedback from buyers and exhibitors, January's Surf Expo show was among our most well received shows ever. Buyer attendance was on par with previous shows and our exhibitor count was up appreciably compared to the year before. More importantly, there was optimism at the show about market conditions going forward.
While 2009 was brutal for many companies and retailers -- and we don't expect things to return to the way they were before the great recession -- there's a distinct feeling that the worst is now behind us.
The optimism at the show was probably due to the improving economy, but I'd like to think our special events helped too. Our Bangers For Bucks skate contest and SUP demo pool both won rave reviews. The BRA/SIMA dinner remains a highlight for many in the industry.
Our industry party fired on all cylinders. We expect most companies will remain cautious when forecasting sales growth. Fortunately, we've nurtured a business-first approach at our show that meshes well with the overall mindset of the industry right now.
How are things looking for the next show? Do you have anything special planned like you did with the SUP tank and the Bangers For Bucks at the last show?
September will have a full roster of special events, including the SUP demo tank and new skateboarding lounge and best-trick contest.
Of course, the September Surf Expo show is the number one most important show for the wakeboarding market, and our show will reflect that with a pro wakeboarding demo on the show floor and the return of the Wake Awards -- which is one of the biggest nights for the wakeboarding industry.
We've noticed that sponsorship enquiries about these events have started earlier than in the past few years, and we view that as another sign that the health of the market is slowly returning.
(Above: A busy SUP booth at Surf Expo.)
With the economy starting to turn, are trade shows making a comeback? Does it seem like brands are willing to spend more money on bigger booths for the next show?
Not to go all LL Cool J, but don't call it a comeback. For me, a real frustration was when Surf Expo was lumped in with what was happening with other shows. A lot of the issues Surf Expo faces aren’t applicable to other shows and vice versa. Because of where we are located and the geographic scope of our buyer base, we offer something important and unique.
But I understand your question and, yes, I do believe more people truly appreciate the value of being face to face with their most valuable business partners, all in one place and all at one time. Does this mean we'll see the return of the big, two-story monster booth with the helicopter on top of it? I sincerely hope not.
AGENDA TRADE SHOW, AARON LEVANT, CO-OWNER
How was attendance at Agenda this past January? Was the show up or down and by what percentage?
Our usual buyer attendance is 3,500 and we were 15% above that.
How are things looking for the next show?
Things are looking really good. Agenda is pretty much sold out through January of 2011. We have an extensive waiting list of brands trying to get into the show and demand is getting really high. We have been growing every season. We could grow much larger but we are limited by space.
(Right: Aaron Levant with Sole Technology CEO Pierre Senizergues.)
Would you move to a bigger venue?
At this moment, we are keeping the show in Huntington Beach, and we like it there.
We feel like we have the best of the best in every category.
We have all the best brands and if you make it a lot bigger, it gets diluted and you see that with other trade shows. We don’t need to make the show bigger for the sake of making short-term money, so we just want to have the best of the best from each category.
Do you have anything special planned for next show?
The next show will take place in conjunction with the US Open of Surfing, which is the largest action sports consumer festival in the world. Last year, it drew over a half a million people to Huntington Beach over the course of the week. Agenda is tied in with IMG Sports and the US Open and that creates an undeniable draw to the city all week and creates a great atmosphere.
The contest is over the course of six days and our show is in the middle of the week. Buyers are going to come to the show and then they can literally walk across the beach and watch the contest.
Also, on the same dates in Huntington Beach, right during and after our show is the Maloof Money Cup in Costa Mesa and on top of that, the X Games will be held the weekend leading into Agenda.
So, if you are an action sports professional, it's a necessity to be in Los Angeles and Orange County the week and a half around the show.
With the economy starting to turn, are trade shows making a come back?
Trade shows in all industries have gotten smaller, not just action sports. It’s inevitable since budgets have been cut and buyer travel is down due to the bad economy. I think because of our small format and exclusivity, we were positioned really well to be successful in this climate. Brands are getting a better return on investment with Agenda so that’s why we haven’t been affected like other trade shows.
Does it seem like brands are willing to spend more money on bigger booths for the next show?
You will only see about five or six larger booths at Agenda. We offer a prefabricated booth system and you pay one flat fee and there are no other fees like union and labor and everything else. Whatever price is on the contract, that’s it. You can have a bigger multiple of that prefabricated booth in some cases. Like Podium Distribution did a 20 x 30, but it’s all our materials. The fact that you show up with your samples and it’s all built is much simpler and more cost effective.
Are more people going to do what Podium did?
Just because people want to do it, doesn’t mean we let them do it. So even if you are a $100 million brand, the average space is 10 x 10 or 10 x 20.
We work on a case-by-case basis. You won’t see a brand doing a bigger booth as a marketing exercise. If they physically need that space because they have that many reps, sample sets and that many retailers coming in as a business function, we’ll expand their size.
Are you doing anything else, adding new features, etc. for August?
Last year we debuted a partnership with TheBerrics.com and a new section called Primer – a section that went back to Agenda’s roots just for independent designers. It’s $1,000 as opposed to $4,000.
The Primer section allowed these smaller brands to get exposure to all these amazing buyers and that section was very successful. So this summer we are expanding both the Primer program and the TheBerrics program in a big way.
The newest thing is trying to get more buyers to the show. Our awareness and hype has been growing over the last year because the word is out that our show is condusive for doing business. The bottom line is that Agenda is the leader in this show segment right now, we may not be the biggest show but we are clearly setting the pace for all other shows.