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The Billabong Group is launching its fall lines this week at the Surf & Sand Resort in Laguna Beach, and I stopped by yesterday to see how it all worked.
The company is bringing in 140 accounts in two groups to see new lines from the Billabong family’s 11 brands. Most of the accounts were from up and down the West Coast and Hawaii, and some were from the middle of the country.
It is the second year Billabong has hosted the event, which started when ASR dissolved.
“The customers love it and the venue is amazing,” said Billabong North America President Paul Naude. “They can focus on the lines without to many distractions.”
I asked Paul how the event worked from a cost perspective compared to a trade show. He didn’t want to get into details, but did say “Based on the number and the portfolio of the brands, there are some cost advantages.”
For those of you who don’t know the Surf & Sand, the setting is beautiful. It’s on the beach in Laguna, with incredible coastline and ocean views in all directions.
Paul took me on a tour of the venue, and how the company had arranged the brands for the event.
The brands mostly had their own meeting rooms of varying sizes for account appointments in different parts of the hotel. Then there was a marketing area where brands decorated small rooms and created brand experiences that reflected the current vibe of the brand.
Cocktails are served on the deck in this area overlooking the ocean, and Paul said everyone is pretty stoked with the view. On this deck, it feels as if you are hovering over the water.
I asked Paul what time cocktails started each day, and he joked, “Probably earlier than they should.”
Billabong is also organizing dinner and entertainment most nights, and morning yoga is offered at 7:30 a.m. on the beach. There are also paddleboards available for the retailers to use throughout the day.
I asked Stephen Tsukayama, who owns 10 stores in Hawaii along with his partners, how this arrangement is working for them.
“For us, it works really well,” he said. “We have three buyers here. It’s real relaxed, and we get to spend time with each manufacturer at our own pace. It’s not as rushed as a trade show. We have time to talk to reps, sales managers and the principals of the company. The whole industry is based on relationships, so that’s important.”
Steve Harkenrider, a buyer from ET in Hermosa Beach, also appreciated the dialed down vibe.
“The venue is unreal, you get a lot done in two days, and it’s a lot better than going to a convention center that’s for sure,” he said. “It’s better scenery and more relaxed than a trade show. At Agenda you can definitely get work down compared to how ASR used to be. Here, you can really work at your own pace.”
See our slide show, above, for photos of the fall line launch.