The Agenda Trade Show, U. S. Open, and Other Trade Show Comments

As I walked around the Agenda Trade Show last week, I saw a lot of people sitting across tables from each other in the booths obviously doing business. That is the definition of a successful trade show. The sample of company executives I talked too seemed to confirm that.  People were surprised by the number of buyers. 

I’m not that worried about the vibe.  How busy or crowded a show is is hard to judge.  It’s impacted by things like the size of the aisles. And I don’t care how much free beer there is.

Okay, wait, I lied. I do care about free beer. But that’s neither here nor there. What’s important is that retailers and brands got together to do business. Whatever other good things happen at trade shows, without that there would be no adequate justification for any show.
We also continue to be over, I’m happy to say, the “My booth is bigger than your booth” syndrome that plagued us for so many years. Though there were a few larger spaces at the end of Agenda’s main hall, mostly booths were what I’ll call 10 by 10s that I’m told companies paid $2,500 for. One satisfied executive told me the total cost to attend the show was $5,000 and that they was doing the same amount of business as when they spent $120,000 on a show. He may have been exaggerating, but I’m sure he’s got a point.
If I’m Agenda show executives Aaron Levant and Seth Haber, I just perk right up when I hear that, because it implies a show value they aren’t getting compensated for yet. You might want to see another article I wrote on trade shows before ASR died that discusses towards the end the pressures any growing, successful show might be subject to.
I think Agenda management will be cautious about how it grows the show and try to have some continuity in who attends and how the show is focused. It’s not that they don’t want to make more money- I don’t actually know anybody who doesn’t- but they watched ASR and I’m guessing learned something from that. Growing too fast, getting too diffuse, charging more than the market can justify; these are all things we learned don’t work.
Meanwhile, speaking of how Agenda might evolve, there are the still ongoing conversations among various industry trade groups about putting together an industry week, part of which would be a trade show. I should say I’m not quite clear on what exactly an industry week would encompass besides the trade show which, I trust, wouldn’t last a whole week. But I like the industry week idea if it’s a way to involve consumers, do some educating, and introduce others to our industry.
If I were putting together an industry week, I’d be talking with Agenda, and maybe Surf Expo as well, about doing the trade show portion of that week. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
Surf, of course, needs some replacement for ASR. Skate seems to have found all they need in Agenda as currently configured, or at least that was what some people told me. I hope it isn’t indelicate of me to point out that skate companies left ASR at least partly due to differences with surf. I don’t have an opinion as to who was right or wrong, but I am unclear why skate companies, who seem to have found a good trade show situation at Agenda, would be quite so anxious to do a show with surf again. Reminds me of that old definition of insanity.
I’m probably lacking some facts here. Hope somebody calls and gives them to me.
And then I walked down the street to the U.S. Open with its air conditioned retail store and Invisalign tent, where you could learn how to get your teeth straightened without unsightly braces showing. I could see the obvious tie-in to surfing because, uh, well,….. Oh- right- the tent was on the beach.
Am I the only one who wandered around that place and was worried that all those stores and exhibits would have drawn most of the same people even if there was no surfing contest?
But then to approve my attitude I went across the street to Jack’s Surfboards to see a real specialty retailer doing what they do well. Jack’s, in business since 1957, certainly highlights the importance of location, but it was more than that. I felt like I was in a real surf shop. I could feel the echo of the places I frequented as a kid. It was well organized in a comfortable and attractively relaxed way and they had all the inventory they could possibly have without making the place feel confining.
So anyway, after a transition period since the closing of ASR, the skate and some youth culture brands have found a home at Agenda and the buyers are showing up. Like I said, that’s the definition of successful show.