Trade show budgets are facing increasing scrutiny for both vendors and retailers, and as that magnifying glass burns into that cash, both sides of the industry are looking for new ways to build on a business based on relationships. With this has come a number of new regional trade shows and the newest on the scene is Skatepark of Tampa’s The Moat Show, which SPoT hosted at its facilities August 18-19, just before Surf Expo got underway an hour and a half to the northeast.
Designed as a skateboard specific, affordable show, The Moat Show was open to the public and hosted a best trick contest with all the mayhem and good vibes that SPoT is known for. We caught up with GM Ryan Clements for the low down.
So how did the show go?
We were psyched! We sold 42 booths that represented 75 brands. It’s funny because I guess I think of successful shows like ASR six-seven years ago when you couldn’t walk down the aisle because it was so crowded and everyone was just partying. The Moat Show…wasn’t jam-packed and there was room to walk around, but we asked people how things were going and they were like “Pretty good man, we’ve already seen six accounts today,” and it was one o’clock on the first day. Then at the end of the first day Deluxe told me they did fifteen orders. Business was getting done and that’s obviously the most important thing. We knew we could show everyone a good time – a party, free beer, you know. That part’s easy for us. Our focus was “How can we get people to work.” And it seems like it worked out.
How did you decide to get this going?
For years we consulted with Expo for their skate events. We did the Volcom miniramp jams there for a few years and before that we did demos – I think we worked with them for eight years. Then in January of last year Volcom bailed out of the prize money, so they didn’t do the contest. We went back and forth and tried to figure something out and it never really conceptualized. We went to Expo last January and went “Okay, there’s no one really here [on the skate side.] There’s not much excitement – we could do this, make it affordable, and throw the Skatepark of Tampa flare on it.” We threw it back and forth a little bit and Barak [Wiser], our buyer, was real forward with it and suggesting it to our vendors and asked everybody if they would support it and people [were into it]. Three months ago we decided to do it and went nuts organizing it all and made it happen.
How was attendance on the retail side?
We didn’t do any preregistration and don’t know what the attendance was. But there were probably five to six hundred people here each day including vendors, retailers and the public.
From talking to retailers, was it mainly local folks?
There were people from Texas and Georgia. Big O [Eric Visentin] and his wife came out from Southside Skatepark in Houston. Mike DeLuca came from Progressive Skatepark in Georgia. Ed Selego was here from M.I.A. in Miami and a lot of Florida shops.
Did you time it to coincide with the front end of Surf Expo?
Yeah, that was completely on purpose. The majority of our vendors didn’t show at Expo, but the handful that did, it was very convenient for them.
We weren’t trying to say “Come here, don’t go to Expo,” or “This is the new shit.” We were doing it because there were hardly any skate vendors at Expo back in January and there’s a need for this. Small, affordable ten-by-ten booths where skate retailers can talk to skate vendors – it’s that simple.
So all the booths were the same size?
They were all ten-by-ten and you could buy as many as you want. Podium bought three, one for each brand to have more room.
How much were booths?
They were $750. We wanted to make it affordable. Some of our better vendors just gave us credit.
So you’ll run with it again?
Yeah. We’re going to do it January 12th and 13th, which the weather will be much nicer for.
What else will you be doing to improve it and get more folks out?
We got some great constructive criticism from people – like start times, who to let in and who to not, different wrist bands – all little stuff that can easily be fine tuned. We’re such a small business – it doesn’t take an act of congress to get something done.
We’re going to do a preregistration next time. We’ll do a specific industry time where the public is not allowed, a better event to go along with it to get the top ams from the shops to ask their owners to be in the contest. That’s going to get the buyers and owners to come as well. We’re going to make it more of a package deal for the vendors – you can rent everything you need for one cost, tents, chairs and everything, and it will still be under $1,000.
How did it go as far as allowing the general public in?
It went fine. On a regular summer day there’s like 100 kids. I think we maybe attracted an additional 100 locals, so maybe a couple hundred. It was totally fine – I didn’t hear any complaints about it. Some of the vendors actually capitalized on that. C1RCA had a spinning wheel where you could win stuff and Tum Yeto worked a deal out where they bought, at a very low price, a bunch of session passes from us so they could give them out to the kids.
That definitely stokes them out and gets them involved with the brand.
Yeah, exactly. You’re not booking orders the whole time. The best trick contest worked out great too. We had people show up that were legit – Tory Pudwill was here and Josiah Gatlyn was here and a few of the local kids.
Can you fit more booths in your space in the future?
Yes, we can. We have plenty of parking and can accommodate a lot more people and a lot more booths. We’re even talking about getting rid of the vert ramp.
Yeah. I don’t think we’re doing a Tampa Pro Vert this year, and if we do it’s going to be on a very small scale, maybe a demo or a session because you just can’t get enough of the vert guys to show up for the contests anymore.
And not that many kids are coming up and into it?
Yeah, the demand’s just not there locally.
Doesn’t it? It’s just changing. So we could fit significantly more booths in if we didn’t have the vert ramp there.
What’s your goal for the show?
To build on it the way it is and keep it here at Skatepark and keep it the same vibe we have here. We want to keep it skateboarding focused. That’s another thing – it was free for everyone. So many people were here skating and any time you wanted to go watch a bowl session or go watch a street session, it was cool to go check that out and remember that’s why we’re all here.
From a business standpoint, what are the biggest benefits of hosting this?
Anyone can do the math: 42 booths at $750 a piece and say “oh, they made some money.” But when it’s all said and done, we made a little bit of money after we paid the expenses. The biggest benefit is relations and getting everyone together. We get to be tighter with our vendors. The region gets to be tighter with their vendors, and everyone just kind of works together. Everyone has to work harder right now for the same thing in the economy and so it was just cool to put everyone on a level playing field and get back to the relationships. There were people here I hadn’t seen in a long time. I can’t remember the last time I saw Tim Gavin at Surf Expo, but he was here and that was kind of cool.
To see more photos and videos of the trade show and best trick contest visit skateparkoftampa.com. and check out Jim Shubin’s coverage on the ASR Biz Network blog. Stay tuned to the October issue of TransWorld Business for a complete wrap up of all the fall trade shows.