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After the terrible holiday at retail, brand executives expected the worst at Surf Expo. While traffic in the aisles was light and some said it reminded them of the post 9/11 show in 2001, most brand executives I talked to said East Coast retailers were more positive than they expected and many were writing orders.
"We were expecting the worst," said Monica Wise of swimsuit company L*Space. "We prebooked 40 appointments with retailers and they all showed up. And we had five walkups."
Monica said the retailers were writing orders at the show, and L*Space had offered small discounts and some extended payment terms to sweeten the pot, as did several other brands I talked to. L*Space also received several reorders at the show, which demonstrates if retailers need more goods, some consumers are still shopping, she said.
"There's a lot of dismal talk about the economy but still a lot of good things going on out there," Monica said.
Chris Brown, right, the national sales director for skate shoe brand Osiris, said he wrote more business on Thursday at the show than at previous two Surf Expo shows.
Chris said there were fewer buyers at the show, but the ones who were there were writing orders. He said the retailers were looking for two things: fresh merchandise and off-price merchandise.
At the Ocean Minded booth, CEO Gary Ward said the East Coast retailers were fairly positive.
"We're missing a few of the retailers, but the guys we normally do business with are here to do business," he said. "It was better than I thought. People are placing orders. It's pretty exciting. They are not putting it off, not saying, ‘Call me next week.' They are writing paper."
The show gave John Vance, the president of Sanuk, a good read on business for the next several months, he said.
"It was a critical show, almost a crystal ball into the next six to eight months," he said. "The good news is people are prebooking. The overall numbers of people here are down, but the number of decision makers who are here have not changed. We've been steady the entire show."
John, far right with Sanuk VP of Sales John Gothard, said retailers wrote a lot of spring orders, plus some for fall. Some retailers told him Christmas was brutal, but that they flushed out the dead inventory and are filling back in with brands that have performed.
"I think we are going to see a consolidation take place," he said. John expects brands to focus on what they do best, while dropping some extensions into newer categories.
I am checking with Surf Expo Show Director Roy Turner on final attendance numbers and will update the story when I receive the numbers.
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