Last Thursday and Friday saw Agenda Long Beach open the US apparel trade show circuit for 2016 at the concrete cavern that is the Long Beach Convention Center in Long Beach, California.
Agenda Long Beach has been on a steady surge in size, popularity, diversity and activity since it's inception in 2012. The show has expanded from a skate, surf and streetwear focus to include contemporary men's and women's apparel and accessories, outdoor, swim and lifestyle collections and industry services. I raved about the show in my review of the July 2015 show.
Last week's show seemed off the boil to me when it came to foot traffic and overall energy. I didn't feel the same buzz that usually runs through the rows of booths and on the open center concourse.
That said, there are some mitigating arguments for what I thought was a slower show.
By all accounts, the holiday season was slow for the majority of retailers. Many stores may not have had the buying dollars available for immediate goods to warrant attending the show.
It rained in Southern California last week. While most of the country would welcome our last week's weather this time of year, locals could have taken the precipitation as a sign of the apocalyse, and thought that there wouldn't be a season to buy for.
Agenda LB may be getting too diverse. The Long Beach show is by far the largest and broadest Agenda iteration. For instance, the Agenda Las Vegas is truer to the original core constituency with distilled street, skate and surf brand offerings. Long Beach attempts to be many things to many people. With contemporary apparel and swim trade shows spread solidly on the calendar in the first quarter, Agenda may have overreached by expanding to so many categories.
I had one industry veteran (who asked to remain nameless) opine that Agenda LB is becoming too much like the now defunct Action Sports Retailer (ASR) trade shows that had a 30 year run in San Diego until 2010. Why did ASR fail? Many reasons. One is thought to be declining clarity as to just what the show's market was. As ASR diversified, did it cause confusion as to just what the show was about and who should attend? My contact thought that this could be happening to Agenda LB.
He also said that the show feels more like a party that a trade event. He noted how much drinking was going on in the booths. He also pointed to the skateboard ramp that made it's debut at last week's show, and said "it feels like just what happened at ASR". By the way, I was nearly taken out by a skater flying off the ramp.
I don't know about the drinking and partying bit. Agenda has always had a loose and fun atmosphere. I have seen many a 11AM beer being downed as buyers have been shown around the racks. Also I don't know about the comparison to ASR because I never attended.
I didn't see much that caught my eye. I did notice that some long time participants weren't in attendance such as JanSport. The Australian women's contemporary labels, Tiger Mist and Rise of Dawn also gave it a miss.
The contemporary men's and women's apparel and the accessories booths seemed quiet on both days.
There was one new brand that was fascinating. Cooperative of Photography (aka COOPH) from Austria has created it's own category - Photography Wear or Photog Wear or Snap Wear or whatever someone cleverer than I can come up with.
They design and produce excellent quality and very stylish gloves, headwear, hoodies, jackets, shirts and t-shirts with clever, innovative extras for photographers. For example, the underside of the bucket hat brim and the cap brim are grey cards, the shirts have a lens cleaning cloth sewn into the inside of the bottom hem, the hoodies have a lens cleaning cloth in hidden, zippable pocket and buttons for folding the jacket into a camera wrap or pillow.
So that was Agenda Long Beach for January 2016. A bit quieter than usual. Not a lot that was outstanding. I am going to reserve judgement on whether the show has grown too diverse until after the July edition.
Up next is LA Fashion Market Week next week. See you there.