My list this year includes Agenda, The KNOWSHOW in Vancouver, and SIA in Denver. Part of me would like to go to others, especially Surf Expo, part of me wouldn’t and, like all of you, I figure it out based on schedule, resources, expected results and, frankly, my tolerance for travel.
I liked Agenda as usual. Also as usual, people think it’s a bit early but on the other hand it doesn’t conflict with another show and I expect they get a hell of a good price on the space given those dates which I hope they pass on to the exhibitors.
Here are a couple of things I noticed at the show:
Thinking About U.S. Manufacturing
I talked to four brands that are considering starting or increasing their manufacturing in the U.S. I’ll have more to say about this in an upcoming article, but I wanted to highlight it now as something maybe you should be thinking about too. Partly, it’s because Chinese wages have risen something like 17% a year for five years and are continuing to rise. And some of their factories have started to automate. But it’s also because U.S. wages, for better or worse, have fallen.
Once the labor cost differential isn’t so dramatic, then other costs become more important. Travel, freight, time to market (which impacts the amount of inventory you have to hold), communications issues, surprise delays, custom duties, control of intellectual property and quality control are among the costs that may be higher with foreign production. But most general ledgers aren’t set up to isolate those costs.
It’s an accounting hassle, and no fun. But if you take the time to figure out those costs, you may find there’s a certain logic to making some formerly foreign produced products in the U.S.
The Great Skate Divide
When I go to Denver for SIA, I’m pretty sure I won’t find the snowboard companies that make pipe boards in one part of the show, and the ones that make all mountain boards in another. But at Agenda, I find the street skating companies in The Berrics, and the longboards mostly in one aisle far away.
Perhaps it’s just because of how the Berrics was organized and set up with Agenda. You know- institutional inertia. But I wouldn’t be surprised if there was still some left over and nonproductive stuff (I’m struggling here for a good word. You know me, I always want to be careful what I say) going on. A bit of a hangover from longboarding growing so much and street skating continually hoping it would go away?
I would like to remind us all (including myself) that we will never be the arbiters of how a twelve year old decides to roll down the street and have fun. The “stuff” we’ve got going on doesn’t matter to them. Can anybody say “plastic skateboards” or “scooters?”
I know longboarding is different from street skating like snowboarding in the back country or on groomed runs is different from being in the half pipe. But the snowboard companies all think they are in the same industry. I’m not sure I know how to get there, but the skate industry needs to think the same. Most of our retailers already do.
And speaking of progress, it isn’t a new development but it was great to see Steve Lake from Sector 9 and Monica Campana from Transworld sitting up there with the IASC board of directors at the open board meeting at the show. The meeting was well attended, but then they had a keg so what would you expect. They introduced a great new insurance product for skaters from Aflac at the meeting which is probably worth the cost of membership all by itself. You can find a link to it at the bottom of this page.
Hoodiebuddie is a couple of years old, but I chatted with them at the show and discovered some interesting business things (Full disclosure- they gave me a hoodie which I passed on to my kid, so he thought I was cool for almost 20 minutes).
As you probably know, they make the hoodie with the ear buds built in and you can put it through the laundry without removing them. The technology that allows them to make buds that can withstand the wash and dry cycle is patented.
That’s cool, but what really caught my attention was their business strategy. First, they do all the design, product development and marketing themselves. But they have a business partner that handles production, accounting and most of the back office. And the partner is big enough to defend their technology around the world as people try to rip it off. I like that arrangement.
More importantly, the company isn’t really just about a hoodie with washable ear buds. That’s their entry product that establishes their market position and gets them recognized as a brand. But longer term, they are building a product line that expands out from the basic hoodie, but is based on it. Essentially, they are trying to make hoodies into a category with a fashion component to it. This isn’t all that different from Clive in back packs and Nixon with watches.
It might be that they could have a nice little company just selling hoodies with ear buds, but I doubt that would be of much interest to their partner. The lesson for all of us is that the focus needs to be on the market position the product gives you, not just the product.
Okay, that’s it. See you at the next show.
Tags: Agenda, Trade Shows