After 14 years of being a trade-only show, Agenda unveiled a consumer day at the recent run of its Long Beach, Calif., event.
The July 15 consumer day, called Agenda Festival, was sold out. According to a statement from Agenda, 15,000 people spent $45 for advance tickets to shop at more than 500 booths, dine at food trucks and listen to a hip-hop concert headlined by Tyler, the Creator and Ludacris at the Long Beach Convention Center. Agenda Festival follows ComplexCon, a consumer-oriented festival of music, art and booth-style retail that was produced in Long Beach in November by Agenda founder Aaron Levant, ReedPop and media platform Complex. ReedPop’s parent company, Reed Exhibitions, owns Agenda. An estimated 25,000 people bought tickets for the debut of ComplexCon.
Agenda Festival’s mix of consumer and trade may have been the first official consumer day produced by a trade-show organizer in memory, according to an informal poll of veteran trade-show vendors. At the Action Sports Retailer trade show, which shuttered in November 2010, crowds of consumers made their way into the trade-only event every season in order to get freebies from their favorite brands. In recent years, other trade shows—including Pooltradeshow, Capsule and Offprice—offer cash-and-carry sections, which are popular with show attendees buying for their stores and for themselves. The Kingpins denim sourcing show runs concurrently with Amsterdam Denim Days, a consumer-based denim festival held annually in The Netherlands. While some Kingpins exhibitors also participate in Denim Days, trade-show attendance is industry-only. In September, Kingpins and the organizers of Denim Days will bring the denim festival to New York for its U.S. debut.
Consumer days are increasingly a topic among trade-show producers as a way to boost audiences. But the jury is still out on it.
Interbike, a bicycling trade show owned by Emerald Expositions, recently announced that it cut its consumer day after three years. Consumer attendance was only moderate, said Pat Hus, vice president of Interbike.
“We now realize that getting significant turnout to fly to Las Vegas during the week is extremely difficult and that we’re better served going back to the old format and making it a trade-only event,” Hus said in a statement released in June.
During Agenda Festival, fans were treated to unique products and exclusives from prominent brands. They included airbrushed socks from Stance, a brand that popularized the sock as a fashion item at action-sports shops, monogrammed windbreakers and bags from accessories brand Herschel, and sterling-silver jewelry from the lifestyle line of athletic brand Champion.
It was a place for new independent brands to show their goods. Poolhouse, a 4-year-old, Los Angeles–headquartered brand, exhibited at the show.
“Because we are a new brand, we don’t get much exposure,” said Cici Chon, the brand’s creative director. “It’s hard to get your name out there, so this was really good for us.”
Poolhouse sold T-shirts and tops, with retail price points from $24 to $38, at Agenda Festival.
A core surf retailer, 7th Wave Surf Shop, also exhibited at the event. Founder Kelli Koller said consumer-day shoppers were buying more than T-shirts. “I thought if they were charging money for tickets, people wouldn’t spend money. But I’m slinging decks that were $60,” Koller said of decks for skateboards.
To make time for the consumer event, trade-show hours were cut from the second day of Agenda. The trade show stopped at 3 p.m. on July 14. Buyers and vendors only had a day and a half to get through the show with reportedly 750 brands. Rob Jungmann of the Jungmaven brand said that it wasn’t enough time for vendors or buyers.
“Every time we turned around, there was another buyer in the booth,” Jungmann said of the trade-show segment of the event. “Buyers still needed to come in.” He suggested extending trade hours on the second day.
Retailers shopping Agenda ranged across the retail board—from majors such as Nordstrom; outdoor lifestyle retailer REI; e-commerce shop Lulus.com; specialty retailers Zumiez and Active; independent surf retailers Coastal Edge from Virginia; Jack’s Surfboards from Huntington Beach, Calif.; and overseas retailers such as Super Deportes from Panama City, Panama.
While it has been a time of change for the retail market, there have been signs of improved business for action-sports retailers, according to Action Watch, which provides market research for the action-sports industry.
First-quarter 2017 sales for retailers followed by Action Watch declined 12.4 percent compared to the same quarter the previous year. However, April sales increased 6.5 percent, followed by a decline of 2.7 percent in May.
Gene Han, founder of high-end sneaker stores Alumni in New York City and Outdoor Supply Co., with locations in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Los Angeles, walked the Agenda trade show. He said that business is good for independent retailers with a business model that features vertical retail and selling on multiple channels. “There’s a lot of change out there. If you are focusing only on bricks and mortar, I don’t see how it can be that great,” Han said.
Styles on the trade-show floor looked similar to what was exhibited at Agenda shows earlier this year in Long Beach, Las Vegas and New York, he said. “I saw a lot of big graphics. Pants have been getting bigger, with looser fits. Footwear brands have been bringing in chunkier shoes and chunkier runners.1990s styles have been trending,” he said. DC Shoes, an Agenda vendor, exhibited Spring ’18 looks that were inspired by Bill Clinton–era styles.
Most vendors exhibited Spring ’18 looks. Agenda veteran vendors such as Vans, Volcom, The Hundreds and Obey exhibited at the show. Agenda was the site of trade-show debuts for new lines. Footwear brand Sanuk made a trade-show debut for an apparel line. Hawaiian heritage brand Reyn Spooner appeared at the show with a new creative director, Jade Howe, and a new sales director, Shane Wallace. Also at the show, sports lifestyle brand’47 showed its high-end basics line ’47 Classics. The Icons of Culture brand showed Gotcha by Icons of Culture and Op by Icons of Culture. The Spring ’18 revival lines are now available to specialty retailers following an exclusive launch with Urban Outfitters.
LA brand Year of Ours unveiled a much larger booth at the recent Agenda. At previous Agendas, it produced a 10-by-10 booth. At the recent run of the show, it produced a 30-by-10 booth. Patagonia unveiled a new booth highlighting its “Yulex” natural rubber wet suits and Fair Trade boardshorts and swimsuits made out of recycled nylon.
During the trade show, Agenda introduced a new children’s clothing section and a section for music labels to sell vinyl records and other goods.
Agenda veteran Electric produced a van-like booth. It was located by the music stages and the food trucks and was the only brand booth located outside the trade-show floor. Steve Hurst, Electric’s president, said that the outdoor location gave people the chance to try on the sunglasses in sunlight.
Lost Enterprises Chief Executive Officer Joel Cooper also exhibited at Agenda. He said the pace of buyer traffic was busy during the show. “I’ve gotten so used to hearing, ‘Business sucks. … Amazon is killing us.’ At Agenda, there seemed to be a positive energy. I felt an uptick of business at the show,” he said.