Agenda Trade Show in HB
Youth Culture Brands Show and Sell
The Agenda Trade Show Which Showcases the Leading Brands in the Youth Marketplace Has its Own Agenda: Taking Care of Business
By Jim Kempton
The Agenda Trade Show which opened Wednesday at the Hyatt Hotel in Huntington Beach was a bustling hub of energy as buyers and vendors crammed the beachfront venue that boasts the latest in fashion and equipment for the youth marketplace, driven primarily by the California lifestyle.
While the US Open of Surfing drew huge crowds of beachgoers to view the surf and action sports activities showcasing youth culture, the Agenda show wanted no part of the circus atmosphere going on at the beach across Pacific Coast Highway. Despite hosting some of the nations most colorful and marketing savvy brands, the Agenda show had a definitive agenda of its own: taking care of business.
“This show is about presenting the brands that represent the youth culture,” says Aaron Levant, the President of Agenda. “We want the companies who come here to do business. All the action sports go on 365 days a year here in California. But for these 2 days we want the brands to have a chance to meet with the retailers and sell their products.”
Indeed the show represented a cross-section of the youth culture that included skateboarding, motocross, surf, snowboarding and street fashion. And the emphasis seemed to be on new brands, fresh energy and most importantly writing business.
“Agenda is the hottest show in the US and to have a kid in his mid-twenties take on the trade show giants and bring such a fresh vision to action sports and street wear is amazing - his efforts should be applauded.” said Podium’s new CEO Paul Gomez, one of the industry’s vibe experts. “Aaron's (Levant) concept is spot on and I hope that our industry recognizes the importance of supporting new young entrepreneurs by having their brands attend his shows.”
Canvassing a wide spectrum of exhibitors from each of the various sport sectors it was hard to find anyone who didn’t seem enthused.
“It reminded me of the family type days of the first Surf Expos. Lots of good vibes, lots of good press and of course buyers!” said Jonathan Paskowitz, an exec at the re-launched Lightning Bolt. “Plus the staff at the Hyatt are really pleasant and the clean, well-run environment is conducive to good business.”
“Agenda is hopping, and the atmosphere was as positive as it gets at a trade show,” noted Jim Gray, an action sports veteran with longtime knowledge of the industry. “Everyone who was there seemed to want to be there. It’s all about the lifelong connections we all make through this industry.
Whether they were a beach company or not the exhibitors seemed to like the location and the timing.
"Sunny and 88 degrees out on the beach - but even hotter inside here,” said Skateboard guru Mark Schmidt the CEO of Art Function an emerging Skate company. “Lots of retailers writing lots of orders. I was surprised there weren't more longboard skateboard brands showing especially since the longboard skate market has been growing at a solid double digit clip the last few years.
Not everyone was completely sold on the merging of so many sectors of the business. Purists, particularly those from the surf industry which considers itself the forerunner in the youth culture market, were less than complimentary.
“Is it successful? Yes,” said one disgruntled attendee who did not want to be identified. “Is it inevitable? I suppose so. Is it core surf vibe? Not even remotely close.”
Inevitable or not, there seemed to be a fresh energy that was not all just about writing business. What was new?
“I love how street art plays such a significant role in the show and seeing it connect from the Hurley art walk on the beach across the street at the USO to the Hyatt,” said Paul Gomez, who is always an astute observer of the culture. “The diversity of the artists from 7 letter crew at Agenda to kids like JP Olson and Dakota Gomez running the art walk down on the sand is amazing.”
What was hot? “I loved seeing a street closed down and huge tent erected on it for new brands to participate in the show,” continued Gomez. “Great job to the city of HB and the Hyatt for making this happen.”
“As far as brands go, I think Brixton was great, Hershel was awesome and new,” observed Jonathan Paskowitz. “Toms Shoes really impressed, great business and good product and people. Also Volcom seemed really alive and looked great.”
“I have to be partial to DVS, Matix and Diamond cause that's where I'm at and I think we are doing some great things,” admitted Paul Gomez. “Other standouts for me are Raen Optics, Brixton, RVCA, Rook, Stance, Loser Machine and Mitch Abshire with Captain Fin. Mitch was there but didn't have booth cause they are still coming up.”
The surf industry has been perhaps the most reticent to jump on board with Agenda because of their loyalty to the Action Sports Retailer Show, which for two decades dominated the action sports marketplace. But now that ASR has closed their San Diego venue the surf brands have embraced Agenda as their best alternative.
Having already outgrown the space in the Hyatt, this year’s Agenda featured a tented area that covered the entire block of highway adjacent to the hotel.
“We really like the tent concept,” said the Tom Executive VP at Quiksilver, perhaps the largest and most prestigious surf brand. “It has a great vibe for surf.”
The vibe was about as positive as anyone could expect considering the economic climate facing business today. In a world of pessimism this arena senses a bright spot of good news.
“Everywhere I’ve been out there with the retail stores, the word is that sales are definitively better,” said Dan McInerny, VP of Sales at Olukai, a high end sandal brand that has recently expanded into shoes. “It’s an across the board response. They all see it picking up.”
After speaking with dozens of exhibitors and buyers at the show, the overall consensus seemed remarkably upbeat.
“I base it on my "Tradeshow Candy" index (where the health of an industry is determined by the amount of candy being given away by brands to passers-by) concludes Mark Schmidtt. “After a few lean years of very little or no candy being given away our industry is coming back to "full bowl" status."