Surf Expo Brings Together Brands, Buyers, Changemakers for Good Business
At its recent January edition, the Emerald-produced board- and ocean-sports show Surf Expo returned to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., welcoming buyers, brands, ocean conservationists and those who embrace the surf and beach culture.
“Surf Expo was excited to once again bring the watersports, beach and resort communities together for a great trade show to meet face to face to discuss solutions, create new partnerships, launch and/or find new products, write orders, and strengthen our community,” said Surf Expo Senior Vice President and Show Director Roy Turner. “Our retail sector continues to be strong, yet like other industries we are struggling with the supply chain as well as the day-to-day challenges that COVID continues to present. We are excited to see the show continuing to gain momentum as we head into our September 2022 edition.”
For Laurel Jones, founder and owner of Swimwear Solution in Overland Park, Kan., the Jan. 5–7 show provided a cheerful environment to conduct serious business as she shopped for swimwear and resort-style dresses. Jones noted that she felt there had been growth since the previous edition of Surf Expo. In addition to her usual stops including Jantzen and Manhattan Beachwear, Jones made a few stops that were new for her store including Dolma and Simpatiko that would price at retail for Resort under $100 and swim under $200.
“All the vendors were just really happy, and they were really accommodating,” Jones said. “Attending a show like this is really important. I don’t think you can do your best job by just ordering stuff online or from some catalog. I am old school about it. I like to touch and feel products. I’ve done this going on 34 years now, and it’s [also] about the relationships that you build with the vendors.”
After nearly two years of consumers opting for leggings and sweatpants, Jones noted a readiness to buy goods that would promote optimism and an attraction toward having fun again. As she shopped for April, May, June and July deliveries, Jones wanted colorful items. Revealing that she realizes that her clients might not share her affinity for bold prints, Jones did want to offer colors that promote happiness.
“Some people were doing imports such as embroidered tunics, or just tunics, or button-front shirts made out of cotton but with tropical prints—something fun, colorful and happy,” Jones said. “Not everyone is as print happy as I am. Some people are print shy, but I just feel when you’re going to a warm, tropical place you want to have some color.”
At the Boca Raton, Fla., eco-focused brand Hülya Swim, Chief Executive Officer and founder Hannah Patten noticed buyer movement toward bolder patterns from retailers in all regions of Florida and all the way up the East Coast through Maryland, New Jersey and New York. Buyers did not seem to mind Hülya Swim’s increased wholesale pricing from $35 to $65 due to inflation.
“I have this one pattern that is going to be part of my new collection that is dropping in June. I call it the Tiger Beach Print because it is sunset colors, and it has a palm tree and shark fin in black. That was my most popular print. That, and I had a groovy back-in-the-day surfer print that people were absolutely loving,” Patten said. “People are now shifting to a point where they want prints.”
As the owner of an ecologically mindful brand, Patten was happy to see that space was made for a number of nonprofit organizations whose missions are focused on conservation, charity, education and responsibility in the action-sports industry. Representing a number of causes, the show’s nonprofit roster included the Board Retailers Association, Christian Surfers United States, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute, Grind for Life, the National Surf Schools & Instructors Association, the Orlando Surfrider Foundation, the Palm Beach County Surfing History Project, Ride Nature, Salty Science, the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association and the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame, which hosted its 2022 induction ceremony as it celebrated its 25th anniversary at the show on Jan. 5.
For Compton, Calif.’s Katin brand, Vice President of Sales Dale Rhodes reported a strong show. While Rhodes noted that Surf Expo always provides an excellent turnout, he also felt traffic increased during this edition compared to the September show. Searching for Fall and Holiday, buyers were interested in Katin’s jackets in rust colors, navy, kelp red and dark clay and flannels in rice paper, cool gray and vintage white. Opening five or six new accounts, Katin saw around 50 accounts during the show as buyers from the East Coast, Midwest, California and Hawaii stopped by from the Ron Jon Surf Shop, Palmetto Moon, Surf Serious, the Heritage Surf Shop, Shore and Hi Tech Surf Sports.
“Surf Expo is a heritage show. It’s been around forever. It’s a staple in our industry. It brings the best brands from all over the country, and it brings in and yields the best retailers,” Rhodes said. “It’s a great community, and it’s a great meeting spot to see great product.”