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Surf Summit 13 in Los Cabos, Mexico wrapped up Saturday and several people have asked me: So what’s the biggest news out of the event?
I must confess, I’m scratching my head about what the biggest news is. With no SIMA Image Awards this year, there were no big upsets or surprising results on that end.
There wasn’t a blockbuster presentation that stood out, and I heard a wide range of opinions about the panels and speakers. Also, there was no scandal like last year, i.e., the roll-throwing and general wildness during the Image Awards.
I think the biggest headline may be that BRA and SIMA joined forces for the event, and about 50 retailers attended. Overall attendance was high, with nearly 300 people at the conference, and retailers and manufacturers spent lots relaxed face time with each other.
Also, the general vibe was positive – I did not hear tons of moaning and groaning about business and the economy.
Former professional surfer Martin Potter received good reviews for his talks on stage with the Gudauskas brothers and Rob Machado on the last night.
People were very excited Gerry Lopez attended and spoke, though I did hear several people comment that while they loved hearing some of the history of the surf industry, they felt the conversation between Gerry and Randy Rarick may have delved too deeply into nitty gritty historical details at different points.
TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie’s presentation outlining how TOMS has taken off was well received, and many felt Blake did a good job of telling the TOMS story.
Several people felt the retail panel was just getting good when it was cut short because of time constraints. It was also the last panel on Friday, and some wished it had scheduled earlier in the conference so people would have had a chance to discuss it during the course of the event.
I was also surprised to hear many of the topics that both retailers and manufacturers have talked to me privately about are not always discussed regularly and directly between retailers and manufacturers. On the retail side –the worry about big box stores carrying the same product, the over distribution of brands, the need for special product, the drive for growth that comes from brands being publicly traded.
On the manufacturer side, the tough road for some small brands who can’t offer the generous terms that some of the big guys are offering during the recession; in some cases, the need to find other distribution because some retailers are paying late; the perceived differences in business acumen between big brands and some smaller retailers.
One person suggested it might have been better to have a closed-door meeting between retailers and manufacturers and really let it all hang out.
On a lighter note, I heard mostly positive comments about standup comedian Steve Rizzo who gave a presentation about the importance of laughter and deciding to be happy. However, some who interacted with him at the conference said off stage, he was pretty grumpy and complained a lot.
Overall, I saw lots of interaction between retailers and manufacturers, including off-site dinners, surf and fishing trips, hang time at the pool and golf excursions. Building business relationships may be the true point of the conference after all.