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UPDATED 2:45 p.m. 6/2 WITH COMMENTS FROM PODIUM DISTRIBUTION
After participating in ASR for 18 years, Sole Technology has decided to try new ways to reach consumers and retailers,
Sole Tech VP of Marketing Don Brown told me this morning.
ASR has been a great partner, Don said, but the industry has changed dramatically while trade shows have stayed the same, he said.
Sole Tech plans to take its annual $500,000-plus budget for larger trade shows and spend it on regional trade shows, increased efforts to visit retailers in their stores, and bringing retailers to Sole Tech headquarters to learn more about Sole Tech culture. (Sole Tech used to spend 40 percent more when it exhibited on the trade show floors. The company cut its costs by moving to the suites upstairs).
The September ASR show also comes at the end of the selling season for footwear, which has earlier production deadlines. Sole Tech also didn't participate in Surf Expo last September because of its earlier selling deadlines.
Andy Tompkins of ASR said the decision is not a surprise given that Sole Tech has scaled back its presence on the show floor for several years, the earlier selling season for skate footwear, the tough economic environment and the fact that many brands lost sales from their biggest customer, PacSun.
"We respect their decision," Andy said. "They've been very upfront and above board. ... My sense is that on the footwear scene, things have been much more challenging."
Andy said Podium Distribution and Circa will also skip the September show. Kelley Meidroth, marketing manager for Podium's DVS brand, said the company's decision to pull out of ASR was based on the show not meshing with Podium's prebook deadlines. To work, ASR would need to take place in the first weekend of August, she said.
Adio, Osiris and DC Shoes are still attending, and have the opportunity to sell to 2,000 retailers representing 15,000 doors, Andy said.
I asked Don if there was any concern that the industry would perceive this is a cost-cutting move in tough times.
"I'm sure that perception will be out there," he said. "That's up to us to make sure people see the energy that we are putting into our brands and into our retailers."
Don said that the new strategy will be harder and more expensive for Sole Tech to execute. But he also thinks it will be more effective, especially since many small retailers may find traveling to big trade shows too expensive in this economic climate.
Don said the January shows have better timing. Sole Tech will review the situation again to see if it will participate in ASR and Surf Expo in January, he said.
"We're going to see how this works as we look at other ways of doing things," he said.
Since I had him on the phone, I asked Don how Sole Tech sales are going now that we are nearly half-way through 2008. He described the situation as "stable."
"We see different pockets - some are good, some are more challenging," he said. Don believes Sole Tech has an advantage because it has a portfolio of brands - some are up and some are down - but overall, multiple brands balance out results.
ASR Press release issued 6/4/08
Leading Footwear Brand Reaffirms Business Strengths of ASR
DC views ASR as the place to write orders and see the world's most important retail buyers
San Juan Capistrano, CA (June 4, 2008) - When ASR lands in San Diego this September 4th-6th, retailers will find a robust footwear presence of 62 brands. With over 6,000 buyers representing 15,000 storefronts, the growth possibilities for a brand of any size at ASR are endless.
"The retail attendance at ASR is as strong as ever with all of the leading specialty, chain and department store buyers making ASR's dates a priority on their calendars," said Andy Tompkins, ASR Show Director. "Brands looking for an efficient way to do a lot of business in a small amount of time tell us that they can't afford to miss ASR."
DC, an industry leader in skateboarding footwear and apparel, plans to attend ASR September with over 5,600sqft of meeting room space. The footwear and apparel manufacturer reports doing a significant amount of business with many of the brand's 2,000 specialty retail accounts at ASR.
"DC recognizes the importance of the specialty store account base and views ASR as the ideal place to allow our sales and marketing team to meet with our retailers and conduct mutually beneficial business," said Mark Miller, DC Senior VP of Sales. "We see ASR as a unique opportunity to connect with our retailers and showcase our complete collection of footwear and apparel as our brand continues to grow."
With gas prices soaring, many reps are finding it harder to travel big distances to regularly visit with retailers in person. ASR provides a condensed platform where sales reps are able to meet with dozens of accounts, under one roof. Retailers regularly comment on how important the face time with business partners at ASR is to growing stronger, smarter working relationships.
"We are committed to trade shows because they are still a destination for our retailers," said Nick Adcock, Global President DC Shoes, Inc. " We see ASR as an opportunity for us to spend time together discussing ways to develop each other's business."
In addition to strong skate brand representation, ASR September will feature Automatic Magazine's Battle Of The Shops skate contest, a growing skate hardgoods section, Create-A-Skate and an extensive mini-ramp. To see a full list of footwear brands showing at ASR September, please go to ASRbiz.com.