Agenda: Buyers Flock to Action Sports and Fashion Trade Show
An improving economy helped bring a bumper crop of buyers to Agenda during the fashion, surf and skate trade show’s July 25–26 run at the Long Beach Convention Center in Long Beach, Calif.
Buyer attendance on the first day skyrocketed 40 percent over the entire run of Agenda’s previous Long Beach show in January, said Aaron Levant, president of Agenda.
Agenda Trade Show
Levant declined to give attendance figures that compared overall buyer attendance from last week’s show to one year ago. The world’s top specialty retailers, along with core surf and skate shops, shopped Agenda. Buyer delegations from specialty retailers American Rag, Urban Outfitters, Zumiez, Kitson and Active walked the show along with e-commerce retailers Karmaloop and Swell as well as independent boutiques such as Thalia Surf Shop in Laguna Beach, Calif.; Colors in downtown Los Angeles; and Local Motion of Hawaii.
Foreign retailers such as Brown Breath from Korea; Unknown Union in South Africa; Zumiez’s recently acquired European retailer, Blue Tomato; and Ron Herman Japan also shopped through the more than 600 vendors, which included some of the top brands in action sports, such as Volcom, Vans and Billabong. Labels making a debut also exhibited. New brands included Asphalt Yacht Club of Los Angeles. Shalom Cultural Peace Project of Santa Cruz, Calif., made a relaunch, and pioneering global brand Mambo Australia, a Sydney-based label, made its American debut at Agenda.
Exhibitor Chris Josol, a partner with Flagship Agency, estimated buyer attendance increased 20 percent at his booth for the SLVDR label. Damon George, sales director for Loser Machine and Dark Seas in Irvine, Calif., reported a 50 percent increase in appointments and 20 percent more walk-ins.
“We like [Agenda] because there is an eclectic mix present, from streetwear to lifestyle,” Immegart said. “It is also good for emerging brands. For us, we can be here and Surf Expo, finding a balance between the two,” said Ryan Immegart, senior vice president, global marketing, for Volcom.
Attendance boosts also came from the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing, something of the World Series of the surfing world, which took place in Huntington Beach, Calif., during the same weekend. (The week-long surfing competition was marred by a melee after the U.S. Open ended and crowds vandalized and looted stores along Huntington Beach’s Main Street. Eight people were arrested.)
This season, Agenda attracted more buyers with its new section, Agenda WMNS, which debuted at the show. Also, Agenda staff had more time to encourage attendance because new corporate parent Reed Exhibitions,which acquired a stake in Agenda last year, took over a lot of back-office tasks, such as logistics. The trade show also announced a new partnership with Board Retailers Association, an independent trade group based in Wilmington, N.C. It formally endorsed Agenda as its West Coast trade show, and it encouraged its members to attend.
There was a celebratory feel in the air, said Michael Darr, vice president of sales for Lost Enterprises, based in Irvine, Calif. Temperatures had increased across the United States after a long period of cold weather at the beginning of the year. Consumers were looking to buy the T-shirts, boardshorts and warm-weather clothes, which are the specialties of Agenda vendors. “May, June and July were good at retail,” Darr said. “People are optimistic for next year.”
Business is improving for independent action-sports retailers, according to market-research company Action Watch. Its index of leading surf and skate shops increased sales 2.2 percent in the first half of 2013 in a year-over-year comparison, said Cary Allington of Action Watch. Sales for women’s apparel increased 10 percent during the same period.
But business is still a challenge for an economy that is still emerging from a recession, according to vendors and retailers at the show. “Business is better than it was a year ago, but it is still tough,” Volcom’s Immegart said.
The opening day was the busiest, exceeding Immegart’s expectations.
“The economy is recovering, and everybody wants to come and spend,” said Justin Smith, manager of the Colors boutique. “But you don’t feel it sometimes.”
Show trends matched an intriguing mix of new and old looks, according to Amy Beams, head designer of the Ambig label, headquartered in Irvine, Calif. “Prints are huge,” she said. Print designs with florals, paisleys and camouflage could be seen in every category from headwear to shirts and boardshorts. Chambray fabric was getting popular; every brand seemed to offer a five-panel cap; and denim was clean, not distressed.
Tie-dye and batik treatments were becoming more popular, said Shawn Brown, global marketing manager of the Altamont label, based in Lake Forest, Calif. The popularity of novelty socks was booming, and chino pants continue to be a major category. “The thing about chinos is that they never really go away,” Brown said.
Roughly 30 women’s brands were represented at Agenda WMNS, as well as more than 150 unisex brands in overall attendance.
WMNS invited Cultist Zine to join in and help curate the event while exhibiting its merchandise. Jane Helpern and Yasi Salek of Cultist decorated their “cash and carry” booth as if it were their bedroom, with punk tributes and religious candles, including rare illustrated tees that were available for purchase.
Another exhibitor, Los Angeles–based Linda Nguyen of Love + Made, has been in the fashion industry for years. The apparel designer has collaborated on numerous projects, from home products such as candles to accessories such as handbags, jewelry and footwear to an eco-friendly clothing line created with Groceries Apparel.
Shevone Bliss of London-based Lazy Oaf said Agenda WMNS was a good fit for the company. The collection, which consists of loud graphics and fun illustrations and prints, was created with a 1990s nostalgic feel in mind. The garments featured cartoon imagery and ’90s-era themes, including oversized “slug tees,” sweat bottoms and body-con garments. “The show has been good. We saw regular customers and made connections with new companies,” Bliss said.
Some women’s collections opted to exhibit in Agenda’s men’s section.
Major retailers such as Pacific Sunwear, Tilly’s and Karmaloop scooped up Volcom Women’s trend-driven collection, which included shorts in high-waist and barely there silhouettes; digital prints, new fabrications, and new dye and wash treatments; and a “Lived In” collection of basics in comfortable, soft cottons meant to be worn layered for activities such as yoga.
Fox Head Inc., known for its
motosports apparel, was showing bold graphics and body mapping for its Spring 2014 women’s swimwear. The brand incorporated its helmet design for tops and functional boardshorts, which featured a five-pocket style in a distressed look and animal print. Shorts featured a mid-rise, welded hems and great colors. Bodywear was another big seller for Fox. “We use a seamless vendor in Los Angeles, with unique stitching details perfect for layering,” said Sasha Hartloff, the juniors national sales manager.
A pair of swimsuits inspired by the original 1970s Fox was popular, as well, Hartloff said.
Swellwomen’s buyers Jayme Sousa and Megan Ozawa said Agenda has become a one-stop shop for the surf and contemporary market and an opportunity to see up-and-coming brands that are not at bigger shows. “Before, we were hopping around. It’s easier [now] to see them put together,” Ozawa said.