New Agenda Dates, Digs Have Mass Appeal

A satellite show no longer, Agenda welcomed 107 exhibitors and approximately 3,500 attendees to its July 22–23 edition, held at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Conference Center in Huntington Beach, Calif.

Since 2003, the boutique trade show had held its biannual shows in San Diego, concurrent with the Action Sports Retailer Trade Expo, the kingpin of action-sports trade shows. With its latest edition, Agenda has set itself apart from ASR (set to run Sept. 10–12), kicked off the Spring 2010 trade show season and upped the ante for trade shows vying for the action-sports market.

Historically more focused on streetwear and art-based lines and T-shirt brands, Agenda has built its roster of footwear, skate and surf brands over the last two years. This edition, Agenda welcomed a bevy of new skate/surf brands to its show floor, including heavyweights and ASR regulars Volcom and Hurley. Other surf/skate brands—including Insight, RVCA, Ezekiel and KR3W—also populated Agenda’s surf/skate-heavy latest edition. Adding to its core industry credibility, Agenda partnered and ran concurrently with the United States Open of Surfing, which held its high-profile competition on the beach across the street from the trade show.

Aaron Levant, founder of Agenda, said the move to include important core surf/skate brands was no fluke. “Surf and skate are categories that are highly relevant to the categories already represented at Agenda. Surf/skate [brands] are more and more relevant to streetwear,” he said. Retailers are mixing buys from core brands, streetwear brands and contemporary brands in their stores, he said. “It makes sense to encompass the best of the best from each category at Agenda. It’s one big melting pot of style.”

Streetwear brands such as The Hundreds, Stuuml;ssy, Freshjive and Crooks & Castles, which used to be the main attraction at Agenda, said they welcomed the influx of action-sports brands and buyers to the trade show floor.

Bryan Jay Calvero of Crooks & Castles said while his wholesale prices for most streetwear pieces are too high for most core retailers, his T-shirts and clean woven shirts fit right into skate’s styling. His goal at Agenda was to meet with the streetwear retailers who typically walk the show and position his brand as a potential crossover brand for core stores looking for more specialty pieces. “Streetwear and skate are similar in that they both rely mainly on T-shirts. I’d rather do skate business than urban business. Our price point is higher than the average skate brand, with T-shirts starting at $15 wholesale, but our look is right,” Calvero said.

Colt Connors, a West Coast sales representative of LRG, which sells in many streetwear and urban-apparel stores, said the brand considers itself as more of a surf/skate brand. The big push for the brand at Agenda: boardshorts.

Levant agreed that streetwear brands are turning to the core surf/skate market for growth. “Both categories look almost the same now, and some [streetwear brands] are moving strongly into that market. For example, I’d almost consider The Hundreds a skate brand these days,” he said.

Agenda’s new dates and upscale digs were a hit across the board, from Volcom to Mosley Tribes, an optical line that debuted a collaboration with the Hellz Bellz streetwear line at the show. Mark Simpson, a sales representative for Hurley, who made its Agenda debut at the show and is also the lead sponsor of the surf competition, said the timing and energy of the show couldn’t have been better. “It’s a great opportunity to be early to market and focus on the future,” he said. The brand showcased its expanded cache of technical and eco-friendly boardshorts. Volcom’s Richard “Wooly” Woolcott was on the show floor but demurred discussing the giant’s status, saying the publicly traded company was currently in a quiet period. However, Tom Ruiz, Volcom’s senior vice president of sales, said the show allowed the company to focus on its two biggest opportunities: its “Creedler” sandals and its girls’ swim line. “Our reps are just getting started [selling Spring], and this show fits right in with that and offers a great location in ’Surf City,’” Ruiz said.

Even brands not prepared to show Spring 2010 said the show worked out well for them. Todd Kellogg of Lira showed Holiday 2009. “Times are changing. Buyers aren’t pre-booking as much, so it’s okay to show Holiday. I’ve even had requests for at-once items,” he said.