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Tiffany Montgomery
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Exhibitors sing Agenda's praises

By Tiffany Montgomery
July 24, 2009 8:34 AM

I went back to Agenda Thursday and spent several hours talking to exhibitors about what they thought of the show.

Nearly all the comments were positive with most brand executives citing the same things that they liked:

  • The earlier dates
  • The ready-made booths
  • The openness of the booths
  • The low cost
  • Having the show in their backyard
  • The upgraded venue
  • The quality of retailers that attended
  • The "doing business" atmosphere
  • The focus on product rather than who has the biggest booth

Agenda DJI even heard people say they liked the food that was sold at the show - sushi, healthy salads and sandwiches - and the low cost of food. An ahi salad, for example, was $8.50. Also, the fact that one DJ played music for all the rooms (right) limited the competing music from different booths, making it easier to talk

And in the afternoon, Agenda did something that really put a smile on everyone's faces. A classy-looking cart stopped at each booth and handed out free bottles of beer to the exhibitors. Several people told me they really appreciated the gesture.

Here are what some people I spoke to said about the show. I haven't talked to retailers yet, however, to see how they liked the dates.

Mike Martin, vice president of marketing and sales, Ezekiel

Mike said he liked the more streamlined booths. "It's a level playing field now. The product has to talk. It's about what you have not how much money you spend. ... I give Agenda an "A" for effort and an almost "A" for execution. The kids have passion and there's no substitute for that."

Mike said he met with key retailers including The Buckle, Ron Jon's, Sun Diego, PacSun, Jack's, Untitled, Bora Bora and La Gran Via.

Ezekiel is still going to ASR and Surf Expo and will support them, and will assess what to do in the future after the upcoming trade show circuit, Mike said.

Phil KennedyPhil Kennedy, vice president of domestic sales, Circa

Phil liked the streamlined and open booths. "It creates a community atmosphere, not booth wars," he said. "It's open. There's a much better feel to it."

The earlier dates are also key and more in line with footwear deadlines. Circa's first order deadline in Aug. 10.

Phil also liked that there was a good mix of brands but not the MMA booths and trinket sellers. And Circa saw a good mix of new and current accounts from different parts of the country.

The team wrote enough orders to pay for the show.

And most of all, he liked the low cost and that there was no need to pay food and lodging for a large staff for several days.

"You can't keep doing the same thing anymore," he said. "I was thinking trade shows were in the past, but this put the spark back into it for me."

Eric Thomas, vice president of sales, RVCA

Eric said the show was great and RVCA's booth was "packed every day."

The timing allows the brands to get a little more visibility on the inventories they will need, he said. He liked the location and that Agenda coincided with the surfing contest so the show that the buyers got to experience the surf culture and vibe.

The low cost was a huge plus, as well. Eliminating the cost of shipping the booth, the in and out fees, the setup up charges, etc. was great, he said, and allows that money to be spent helping retail customers with more in-store marketing and events.

"It was a low cost way to get orders done," Eric said. "It'll take that any day."

Pepe LandaPepe Landa, global sales director, Ipath

Pepe described the show as "awesome." The timing was great, he said, and the fact that big brand anchors came swayed Ipath to participate, too.

Ipath will still be at ASR, which has been very accommodating, Pepe said. ASR is flying in three of Ipath's top international distributors to the show, and Ipath is picking up the hotel costs for them.

He liked Agenda because "It's business. I'm not spending tons of money to set up." Pepe said he wrote a lot of orders at the show, including a test order from Tilly's Ipath has been waiting for.

Pepe also said the media coverage was strong and he had already done four live interviews.

Brad Lyle, director of domestic sales, Sole Technology

Brad said the show turned out beyond his expectations. Even though the economy is tough, Brad said there was a good energy at the show.

Sole Tech saw key retailers, and the timing of the show is "literally perfect," he said.

Plus, the upgraded venue was a big plus.

"It's a nicer, higher end Agenda," he said.

Seth Haber, partner, Agenda

After talking to exhibitors most of the day, I ran into Agenda partner Seth Haber in the lobby. Seth and his cousin, Aaron Levant, own and run Agenda.

Seth told me he and Aaron always had a vision for this upgraded version of Agenda, but it took years to build up the experience and financial resources to make it happen.

I asked if they plan to do a January show at the Hyatt Regency as well. He said they have an enormous number of options and they want to talk to retailers and exhibitors to evaluate how the show went before making any decisions.

When I asked about the buyers who attended and how many were flown in for the U.S. Open, Seth said it was great to have those retailers here but it was a fraction of the total number of retailers who attended.

I also asked him about the popular beer cart, and why they added that that touch.

Seth said they had a few extra dollars, so why not give something back as a way to say thanks.

"And everybody needs it" it at the end of a trade show," he said.



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