Words by Mike Lewis
While Surf Expo is officially over, attendees are still unpacking their booths, following up on new contacts, and hurriedly writing orders to meet deadlines.
Show staff was also busy compiling the show’s attendance numbers, which required a little extra time with all the new attendees. This September’s show attendance climbed 13% overall from last year with a cumulative buyer attendance of more than 11,000 pulled from 6,400 retailers. The show also saw exhibitor numbers climb 14% with 825 exhibitors representing more than 4,000 brands.
“We were super stoked to see not only the increase in buyers, but in the business being done in the booths,” says Surf Expo Show Director Roy Turner. “Our demo day at the Orlando Water Park kicked things off in high gear and floor events were busier than ever. The TransWorld Wake Awards spilled over onto the floor; with many award recipients taking runs on the on-floor wake cable setup. If one word were to describe the show it would have to be diversity, with exhibitors and buyers representing surf, skate, wake, kite, SUP, freedive, and swim and resort categories. Exhibitors are feeling the magic of that diversity as they were able to connect with new cross category buyers as well as service existing clients. Buyers on the other hand were exposed not only to new products and companies but completely new categories.”
Some of the busiest areas during the show included longboarding, SUP, wakeboarding, swim, and the new freediving category, which featured a demonstration tank and daily seminars, which drew large crowds.
“The show went really well for us,” says Landyachtz USA Sales Nate Schumacher, whose Vancouver-based longboarding brand’s booth was packed from open to close. “We opened a good number of accounts on the floor, met a lot of potential leads, and had a great time doing it.”
The vibe was similar in the wake world. “We had an incredible show,” adds Slingshot Sports Creative + Marketing Direcotr Gary Huck. “We saw so much interest in our products and the brand definitely got noticed. The people at Expo let us know that our booth had one of the highest traffic of the show according to their data. Orders were up across the board and we really feel that 2012 is going to be a big year for us. Fun stuff!”
Surf Expo is an interesting animal, with booth that span the range from core action sports brands, to beachfront tsotchke offerings-it’s a one-stop shop for a broad range of exhibitors and retailers alike.
“Surf Expo is a unique crossover for beach gear,” says Neff Marketing & Snow Team Manager Mark Copeland, whose booth was slammed throughout the show. Copeland says Surf Expo allows them to reach new accounts outside of their traditional base. “This show has been great, but I’m glad it’s the last for a while.”
The show’s late dates did pose a bit of a problem for many brands, translating into empty appointment sheets as most retailers, even the regional ones, had already seen lines at earlier shows.
“The show was good for us, but we’d prefer it be a little earlier,” says 17th Street Surf Shop Owner and President Tom Brown, who says they saw most of their major accounts at Agenda and Magic in order to get their orders in by the beginning of September. That said, Brown adds that he did get to have good discussions with several SUP brands about potentially adding that category, and GoPro, about bringing its product in. Additionally, it provided time for his team to meet with brands about merchandising and promotions efforts for the coming year, conversations that don’t take place during busier, sales-oriented shows.
“I’m glad to get everyone out to the East Coast,” adds Brown. “These dates are good for the resort shops, but if they want to be a surf show, they need to look at moving the dates up.”
Roy Turner Interview
We had a chance to catch up with Show Director Roy Turner to get his take on the show and its timing as well as its recent sale, as part of DMG World Media’s GLM Show division, to Providence Equity Partners for $173 million.
I heard a lot of talk at the show from retailers that would like to see the show move up earlier in the year, say early August. Is this something that you guys are going to be looking at addressing?
Our current date pattern immediately following Labor Day seems to be a god balance for us now, based on the preferences of many East Coast, Caribbean and International buyers. Dates are always a fine balance with exhibitors and retailers both having different needs. We constantly survey both groups to see how Surf Expo can maintain its position as the premier water sports show, both domestically and internationally. Our consideration also has to encompass the needs of more than one sector – Wake, Skate, Surf, SUP, Kite, Dive, Swim, Resort and Gift elements all come into play. While it makes finding the perfect date almost impossible, it is the diversity of the buyers that make our show so attractive, whether you are collecting orders on the backend of a sales cycle or launching your product for the first time. Bottom line if the booths are busy and paper is exchanged we consider the dates to be in balance. If not we adjust to the needs that best fit our buyers and exhibitors. Since 2008 we have had dates ranging from the middle of August to the 3rd week of September, as we constantly listen to our audience to produce the most effective show for the action sports and water lifestyle market.
What were the highlights for you of this show and areas for improvement for next year?
Highlights include the TransWorld Showroom Fashion Show that brought a California attitude to our main stage, the energy of the Wake Awards, the turnout for the AWSI award night, the rock stars of the free-dive world in the tank on our show floor — it was all insane.
For next year I can see a bigger and better demo day as we see opportunity to expand the success of that event. More demos on the floor with expanded event areas, a continued push to expand the traditional boardsport categories to include more water-related activities. Freedive’s introduction went well, SUP is booming, the kite crew is back strong, and wake and surf continue to show their dominance at our September show. It was all good.
As far as the sale from UK-based DMG to Providence Equity, how do you foresee this affecting your team’s day to day work?
[There will be] no changes in the day-to-day operations at Surf Expo. Surf Expo staff and offices based in Atlanta and California, as well as the other GLM Show offices and staff, will remain unchanged.
I understand one of the benefits will be to allow you to focus on growth as well as acquisition. What types of acquisitions would be appealing to your brand?
Providence Equity brings new investment, acquisition, and growth opportunities to the show and our management team, and we are excited about their commitment to identify opportunities both here and internationally. For Surf Expo, we see nothing but upsides for our buyers and exhibitors, as we continue to evolve Surf Expo into the largest trade show in the world dedicated to boardsports, watersports, and the water lifestyle.
What opportunities do you currently see in the trade show space?
Tons of opportunities are emerging, as we see consumer and B-to-B needs constantly changing. From niche markets to the natural evolution of existing trade show products, I think the opportunities lie in simply listening to the marketplace and being able to react as new categories emerge or markets begin to blend based on customer demands.
It is really an exciting time for all. Time and time again it is proven that face-to-face meetings and/or events work best at connecting all aspects of a marketplace.
Surf Expo Show Director Roy Turner talks about day one of the show. Take a look at the video below to hear first hand what he had to say.