Wintersport manufacturers lament loss of ASR vibe, not show itself
The news that the Action Sports Retailer trade show would not take place this year was a surprise to many in the outdoor recreation industry. But the wintersports side of the boardsport business had stopped attending years earlier. Why? SNEWS found out.
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Long renowned as outdoor recreation’s sexiest trade show for its overabundance of California cool, bikini bodies and surf stars, the now defunct Action Sports Retailer trade show did a great job celebrating the culture of boardsports.
But on the wintersports side, especially among the snowboard, sunglasses and goggles companies, no one seems to think the loss of ASR will have much impact on their business.
“Losing it does have an effect on our skate and apparel efforts, but not on our snowboard efforts,” said Bob Carlson, president of Arbor. “We had showed some snowboards there, but just for color.”
Carlson said his regrets at the loss of the show are based more on nostalgia than economics.
He said, “I was thinking this morning about coming to ASR as a kid, working for my friend’s dad, and how that was where I realized I could actually have a career in this business.”
After more than 20 years in San Diego, Nielsen Expositions, which ran ASR and also handles the Outdoor Retailer trade shows in Salt Lake City, announced it was shuttering ASR, citing how, among other things, “recent consolidation among major brands and even meaningful changes in the retail environment has significantly altered the landscape.”
In an open letter to exhibitors and retailers, Andy Tompkins, vice president of the Nielsen Sports Group, said, “The action sports lifestyle has huge consumer appeal and favorable youth demographics along with leading, creative and successful brands and retailers. However, given the competition among key brands and the consolidation among retail shops, it appears for now, to be mostly a market share battle for floor space.”
In closing, he appealed to ASR attendees to give the Outdoor Retailer trade shows a look, saying, “We will be increasing our efforts to expand the retail and brand base as well as the culture of the Outdoor Retailer Trade Shows in Salt Lake City to better serve the growth needs of the action sports communities.”
When the SnowSports Industries America (SIA) Snow Show left Las Vegas for Denver last January, there was concern among wintersports exhibitors that the move would result in the loss of the California drive-up market. For boardsports in particular, that seemed to give ASR new relevance to both the summer and winter business opportunities along the Pacific Coast.
But it didn’t pan out. Mostly because of “the consolidation in retail shops,” that Tompkins referred to, as every year fewer buyers were showing up. And also because the bigger players in snowboarding had already given ASR a look, and found it wasn’t a good fit.
Burton, K2, C3 Worldwide and other companies contacted for this story all echoed the response of Mervin Manufacturing co-founder Pete Saari, who said of the ASR show, “Mervin has not exhibited at ASR for many years. We focus our trade show efforts on the regional snow shows around the country and SIA as our national show. Large trade shows are expensive to coordinate and not necessarily the most effective or productive place to do business.”
Even brands that transcend the seasons said the loss of retail attendees at ASR in recent years had become especially pronounced.
“Spy started there in the mid-90s, and had a presence at every show, but the last two years no retailers showed up,” said Fran Richards, vice president of marketing for Spy Optic.
Asked if he thought the closure of ASR would result in more retailers from SoCal at SIA, Richards said any independents left in the region have already made the shift.
“There are no more SoCal retailers anymore. And none of the surf shops carry snowboards. Sophisticated e-tailers already wiped them out,” Richards said. “I don’t think it changes anything for us at SIA, because there is no business from ASR that wasn’t done at SIA already.”
For Outdoor Retailer and SIA, the ability to attract a ready mix of retail buyers would seem to be the No. 1 secret to trade show success. But the fact that both markets still have such a strong specialty retail base — especially in this age of e-tail and chain giants — doesn’t mean they aren’t also taking note of ASR’s fate.
“You have to stay focused,” said SIA President David Ingemie. “The strength and relevance of SIA is based in large part on maintaining that focus on what the industry needs and wants.”
Without the participation of the retailers, he said, that level of focus is hard to recreate.
“From all over the country, they’re the people who are living it, smelling it and talking to the consumers on a daily basis,” Ingemie said. “I think if you want to be in a business, or an industry, you need to be in that place where the suppliers, retailers, the reps and the media are together and that conversation is taking place.”
On Oct. 6, 2010, veteran journalist Peter Kray joined the SNEWS team and is now editor of the new SNEWS WinterSports channel. We trust you are enjoying the full offering of WinterSports news. Be sure to email your friends and let them know the best WinterSports news has arrived — just in time for the start of the winter season. Got WinterSports news? Send your WinterSports news to Kray at firstname.lastname@example.org. Subscribers can also post WinterSports news releases directly to the SNEWS website. Email us at email@example.com to learn about posting your own news releases, or for any other questions or comments. We love to hear from our readers!