North America’s leading surf trade show is heading online this year due to the safety concerns and restrictions on mass gatherings caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. Surf Expo Show Director and SVP Roy Turner explains more about how this year’s virtual event will run for brands, retailers, and businesses. Surf Expo Connect means that this year European brands, retailers and businesses can easily get in on the action as well.
Please tell us about the thinking behind launching the virtual event.
Although Covid-19 is preventing us from holding an in-person show this fall, the need for retailers and brands to conduct business remains strong.
Increased participation rates in skate and surf have attributed to a huge growth in skate and surf hardgoods sales; also, wetsuits, the wake, marine and boating markets have seen stellar months. Many of our core retailers and dealers have seen booming sales and inventory shortages, and they are eager to connect with brands. Therefore, the best way to bring everyone together is virtually. During the process of looking for a solution for Surf Expo over the past 6 months, we have been able to look at numerous virtual platforms and attend multiple virtual events and finally, we are excited to introduce Surf Expo Connect this month.
Where have you taken inspiration from?
Our goal has always been to connect buyers and sellers in the marketplace, whether at our physical event or with technology. With the virtual show, we wanted to provide more than just a stop gap replacement for our cancelled in-person show and find a solution that could complement our live/ in-person shows going forward.
As for inspiration, I liken our new venture to the current music industry; online streaming services introduce fans to a new band or singer, you add it to your playlist and when the band goes on tour, you purchase a ticket to their live event. After the concert you can easily hit up your playlist and listen to the tracks again.
We know nothing beats the excitement of a live show, but online does offer the ability to explore and reference. We see the same easily translating to the tradeshow format.
Please explain the set up and how this will work for brands.
Each brand has a virtual booth which they can customise to meet their needs.
We are seeing brands really experiment with their virtual booths. Many are taking a product/sales focus while others are using it as a marketing/branding opportunity allowing retailers to preview highlights and tell their brand stories. Unlike face to face events, communication within the booth takes place via live chat and video meetings. This is in addition to more traditional product catalogues, line sheet viewings and downloads. Brands can also link directly to their B2B platform from within their virtual booth.
In-booth events can range from live or on-demand fashion shows, line showings, product releases and demos to interviews or live Q&As with pro-athletes or team riders.
One week before the virtual show launches, we will launch the exhibitor directory, for buyers and participating brands to browse and contact one another for appointments. During the show days, September 16-18, the virtual booths will be staffed by the brand teams.
And for retailers.
Access to the virtual show is free for qualified retailers. A week prior to the show, retailers will gain access to the exhibitor directory to browse and contact brands they are interested in meeting with when the live show opens from September 16-18.
Retailers can connect with brands directly in their virtual booth to view product catalogues, show specials, and attend scheduled live events such as line showings or product demos. Scheduled meetings, live events or networking with brand members will take place right in the booth.
Why should European brands and retailers get involved?
Qualified retailers attend for free, as always. Everyone across the globe can participate without the cost of travel. It’s just a matter of internet access and time. It’s a perfect time for European brands and retailers to experience Surf Expo from the comfort of their own shop, office or home.
How can interested parties sign up and when is the deadline?
Retailers can register online at any point and attendance is free. Our Exhibitor Directory goes live on September 9th so don’t delay.
Any brands who are interested in participating should contact [email protected] as soon as possible. The setup is easy, but it’s best to get started as soon as possible with the show starting September 16.
Do you have any more virtual shows that could be of interest to boardsports brands and retailers?
Manufacturers and retailers can both benefit from the upcoming virtual Retail Innovation Conference October 13-14, 2020. The show is designed to expand on retail reinvention, to refocus our perspective, rethink strategies, and accelerate technology and business plans to meet the needs of a very different consumer base.
Later this fall, Surf Expo will be introducing a virtual “Preview” to our January 2021 in-person show. More to come on that soon!