Buyers Upbeat at ASR Show

SAN DIEGO — Action sports retailers are counting on the disposable income of teens and their commitment to the skating lifestyle to carry sales through fall.

During the ASR show, held here Jan. 22-24, retailers said sales have remained strong, even during the economic downturn.

“We’re in a discretionary recession,” said D. Nachnani, owner of the 10-door Virginia Beach, Va.-based Coastal Edge chain. “People have the money for a product with the right perceived value. [So] there is fruit on that tree to be picked.”

Nachnani said Pacific Sunwear’s decision to pull back on its footwear offering, as well as the closure of other smaller skate shops, has helped strengthen the chain’s market position. And as proof that consumers are still eager to shop, Nachnani pointed to a recent event at his store that brought out hundreds of kids — and netted double-digit sales. “We’ve chosen not to participate in the recession,” he said. “There are too many things we can control to worry about the things we can’t.

Ryan Arakaki, CEO and director of operations for Honolulu-based In4mation, said he planned to buy nearly as much as he did last year, but would play it slightly more conservatively. “We’re ordering sneakers we know will sell,” he said. “The 16- to 30-year-olds seem to have money. Kids keep coming back for something new, so we have to give it to them.”

Arakaki said his store’s success is largely due to the skate lifestyle and what his consumers view as a necessity. “Skating is a lifestyle,” he said. “It’s not as though you’re going to give it up [because of the economy]. Skaters need shoes.”

Brittany Neal, assistant manager at Laguna Beach, Calif.-based Toes on the Nose, agreed that the economic woes haven’t stopped shoppers in her store. “We expect to be flat or up for this year,” she said. “We’re in a very good position.”

Neal said the modest price points and improved styling of many skate and surf brands are helping to attract consumers. “If you compare the shoes we carry to other stores, we’re pretty moderately priced,” she said. “And vendors are doing a great job. [The shoes] are looking nice for a lot less.”

Still, Neal said she planned to buy lightly for fall. “We’re going to scale it back some,” she said. “We’ll chase styles instead of pre-booking. That seems to be the way to go right now.”

While retailers were generally optimistic, many big names were absent from the floor. Stalwart brands including Quiksilver, Circa and Sole Technology opted out of this season’s show.

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