Agenda Vendors Ponder Show’s Future After Founder’s Exit
Agenda celebrated its 15-year anniversary with talk of what will happen to the streetwear, action sports and lifestyle trade show now that its founder, Aaron Levant, is leaving.
A few days before the Jan. 4–5 event started at the Long Beach Convention Center, news broke that Levant would be leaving Agenda and its parent company, Reed Exhibitions, to start a new, unnamed venture.
Hervé Sedky, Reed’s regional president for its Americas division, announced that Levant would continue to serve as an adviser to Agenda and Reed. But vendors felt change was in the air.
Jeff Staple, founder of the Staple brand and a veteran Agenda vendor, wondered if Agenda would be the same show after Levant’s departure.
“Aaron had all of the relationships and the vision. The onus is on Agenda, the organization, to show that it cares more than Aaron. That will be the challenge. He put his head on the rails for this,” said Staple, who was born Jeff Ng.
But in many ways, Agenda was still the same show it has been for years. Veteran exhibitors such as Vans, Obey and The Hundreds had booths at the long-running event.
Buyers seen at previous Agendas shopped the show. This group included action-sports shops Jack’s Surfboards, Sun Diego, Tilly’s and Zumiez. Also reported at the show were retailers Nordstrom, Urban Outfitters and San Francisco–headquartered Azalea.
Core surf and skate shops represent an important buyer group at Agenda, and lately business seems to be slightly improving for them, according to ActionWatch, a market-research group that reports on the business of independent action-sports shops.
For its most recently released results, overall sales on the ActionWatch panel saw a year-over-year decline of 1 percent in November. It was an improvement from October and September, with both seeing year-over-year declines of 7 percent.
If there’s growth in December, it will represent the first time since April 2017 that there were sales increases for ActionWatch’s panel of independent shops, said Patrik Schmidle, the group’s president.
The pace of buyer traffic seemed to be much lower than the busy ambience seen at the January 2016 show. Sam Yang, owner of veteran Agenda exhibitor Vast, conceded that the show floor did seem quiet during the recent run of Agenda. “But people have been coming by,” Yang said. “It’s quality, not quantity,” he said of Agenda’s buyers.
Reasons for declining traffic included Agenda’s schedule. It took place only a short time after the holiday retail season, when retailers typically put in their longest hours. Some retailers might have wanted to take a long break after the holidays. Also, harsh weather around much of the country made it difficult to travel.
However, many vendors said that buyer traffic and business were great. “We saw everyone we hoped to see,” said Chris Pollock, president of the Lost brand.
Tom Law, sales manager for Icons of Culture and Z Supply, said his booth was busy throughout the show. He had 30 appointments with retailers looking at Icons of Culture’s capsule collection for Maui and Sons women’s styles.
Agenda’s Long Beach show was the site of some brand debuts. After years of making chino and twill pants, the Brixton brand unveiled its first line of denim pants for men. Popular athleticwear brand Champion introduced its first full line of high-end sneakers. Patagonia introduced Uprisal, a sustainably made sweatshirt constructed out of recycled polyester, recycled cotton and elastic.
Also taking a bow was Raga Man, a men’s shirting line that takes inspiration from the lifestyle of Los Angeles’ Venice Beach and the tradition of India, said Sahil Chaudry, the company’s creative director.
Long Beach, Calif.–brand Polymer was introduced at Agenda. Eric Basangan, the brand’s founder, made a line of elevated basics, which include collared shirts, T-shirts and pants.
Also at the show was Vans, which expanded its program for its Versa QZP DX clothing made out of tough, waterproof fabrics. High-end denim brand G-Star exhibited at the show as did prominent cap brand New Era and workwear brand Carhartt.