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I spent Thursday walking the Surf Expo floor and talking to brand executives.
It's my first time at Surf Expo, so I asked show veterans how the traffic and vibe compared to previous years.
Everybody I talked to said the foot traffic was definitely down and the overall atmosphere was quiet, but appointment bookings with retailers were fairly strong.
That's what I noticed as well. Inside the brand booths, many stations were half to three quarters full with retailers reviewing the lines.
Executives also told me that preview day on Wednesday, when lines are shown to retailers in meeting rooms, was quite strong with appointments booked back-to-back.
I checked in with Surf Expo Show Director Roy Turner late Thursday afternoon to see how attendance was going. He did not have final numbers for the day yet, but echoed some of what I heard from attendees.
He said according to Surf Expo research, retailers opted to bring fewer employees this year - an average of 2.4 people per store instead of the usual average of 4 people. However, the number of total stores that preregistered for the show was up 6 percent.
And one bright note was that 30 percent of preregistrations occurred between the holidays and the start of the show. Roy believes that means that a decent chunk of retailers did enough business at holiday to feel comfortable spending the money to attend.
"I think people came in with low expectations but are pleasantly surprised that retailers are attending and doing business," he said.
I'll write more about what I've learned from brands about new products and strategies starting next week.
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