Surf Expo had the fortune of not seeing a huge dip when the economy tanked and our commitment from the top brands remained consistent through the days of the "Great Recession." Why? Exhibitors understand that trade shows offer the most effective use of time and money to see important retail accounts and grow their business.
And since Surf Expo counts buyers by the thousands (not the hundreds), the recession actually made our value proposition stronger, not weaker. That's why we've seen an aggregate 22% increase in exhibitors and a more than 13% increase in buyers and store attendance since 2009.
The industry is doing a great job appealing to buyers beyond the coastal strip as well. Whether you're talking about apparel and swimwear, stand up paddle or wakeboarding, we're seeing the appeal of the brands that we serve growing along waterways across the country. We're certainly more aware of the need to communicate with those Midwest, South Central and Canadian retailers, and we're seeing good organic growth from those regions because of the work of the industry. While we're proud of our strength along the East Coast, our appeal stretches coast-to-coast, and to more than 50 countries.
The nearly 4,000 lines at Surf Expo do the best job of attracting buyers and over our 35-year history we've become a “can't miss” destination for hundreds and hundreds of great retailers. Those buyers have compared us to everything from a family reunion to prom night. It's flattering to hear their praise, but we understand that the great selection of brands are the real reason for our incredible buyer base.
That support -- and the support of our exhibitors -- does allow Surf Expo to do a few unique things compared to the rest of the trade show industry, things that set us apart and offer unrivaled customer service. Our Buyer Relations department is constantly working with brands -- large and small -- to identify new or important retailers and bring them to the show. While this is just a tiny sliver of our overall attendance, we understand how important it is. Seeing that one key account face to face in a focused, business-first environment can often make a whole show for certain brands.
Surf Expo has also benefitted from larger market development. As the industry has expanded to include customers from beyond the coastal strip, Surf Expo has been there every step of the way. Our category assortment reflects that. We're the world's number-one wakeboarding and SUP trade show, and while salt water flows through the veins of many of us, we're incredibly excited to help our companies develop new customers, regions, and markets.