More than 8,500 industry professionals participated in the event, which featured more than 750 brands.
Surf Expo, a premier watersports and coastal lifestyle tradeshow, saw a robust 21% year-over-year gain in attendance for its January 2023 edition, hosting more than 8,500 industry professionals at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, from January 4-6 for an incredible buying experience.
“The surf, coastal, and resort markets are thriving and vibrant,” said Roy Turner, Surf Expo SVP and show director. “We were thrilled to see that qualified buyer attendance was up 20% at this show over the previous year, with more than 4,100 qualified buyers attending. These retailers from the U.S. and more than 60 different countries got to check out more than 750 brands.”
The surf section was larger than at the September show, with 27 new exhibitors in the surf section alone and many brands attending their first trade show ever, such as Former and Rivvia Projects, and surfboard maker Misfit Shapes M/SF/T. Other notable brands that participated included BN3TH, Birkenstock, VISSLA, Keen Footwear, Hey Dude, Salty Crew, Katin, Brixton, Dickies, Firewire Surfboards, Sharp Eye Surfboards, Xcel Wetsuits, Pura Vida, Jetty, Havaianas, Sperry, Sun Bum, AFTCO and many more.
The wide variety of companies exhibiting were excited to meet with the many key accounts that showed up looking for both fresh brands and ideas for their retail floors.
“Surf Expo is a great show for chasing the WOW!” said Jeff Glik, CEO of Glik Stores in Granite City, Ill. “Retail is about constant change and new vendors give us an opportunity to inject the WOW! The highlight for me at the show was I-SEA sunglasses. We met with the owner and sales manager and boy did they dial me in!”
Many buyers were looking for those newer brands to stay in tune with the latest trends. “As independents, we like to think of ourselves as pioneers and as the heartbeat of the retail landscape,” said Jim Archibald, owner of Archie’s Surf Shop in Grand Bend, Ontario. “Having these niche brands really arms us in battle in this evolving market. Hopefully these newer, small- to medium-sized companies will be the big brands of tomorrow. This show is great at giving them a better chance to showcase their wares.”
Other retailers valued the opportunity for face-to-face meetings with brand executives. “We definitely had a productive show,” said Timothy McKevlin, owner of McKevlin’s Surf Shop in Folly Beach, S.C. “It’s almost worth the trip just to be able to meet with a Pukka designer and create hats! It’s always valuable to meet with brands in person – especially since that has been a challenge in the last two and a half years.”
“We had a really great experience at this year’s show,” said Luke Mesanko of Wanderlust & Sea in New Jersey. “A lot of the next-gen brands got our attention, and we had time to build up those relationships. We had some really great dinners and lunches with business executives and their teams. All around, it was super productive, and the vibes were high.”
Brands were thrilled with the retail turnout and interest.
“January Surf Expo was one for the records!” said Patricia Thornton, president of Psycho Tuna. “Retailers were present and buying. Surf Expo has been and will always be my favorite show as we always come out with new business.”
Business was fast and furious for other brands at the show as well. “As a new brand into our third year, this was our busiest show we have had since we launched I-SEA,” said Don Dyer, vice president of sales for I-SEA. “Tons of retailers showed up to write business. We saw over 130 retailers in two and a half days. This was the best Expo I have seen in the last eight years.”
In addition to the busy sales floor, Surf Expo hosted free professional learning labs and multiple fashion shows. The Florida Shape-Off, the annual surfboard shaping contest and exhibition that promotes the craft of hand-shaping surfboards, was won by Josh Peterson of Peterson Surfcraft.
Surf Expo will return Sept. 7-9, 2023, to the Orange County Convention Center’s South Concourse.