By Laura Murphey

There was a strange emptiness that seemed to linger through the halls of the WWSRA So Cal regional show held at the Embassy Suites in Anaheim February 24th to the 27th. Manufacturers were split between a small ballroom and the first two floors of the hotel.The unoccupied space could have been an illusion caused by the scattered layout or as some reps mentioned, just plain poor attendance.

It was the first time the show took place at this particular Embassy Suites, and maybe the last. The hotel experienced a rude awakening when an in-room fire sprinkler was mistakenly used as a coat hanger, which promptly busted and started a chain-reaction triggering the other sprinklers. The indoor rain shower allegedly caused the hotel 4,000 dollars in various kinds of “water damage” to the food court and fish pond. The culprit remains anonymous and if not soon identified, show organizers report each rep from the show will be charged 50 dollars to cover the costs.

Hopefully the Embassy Suites will recognize the fiasco as an accident and will be kind enough to invite the show back next year, since most of the reps and retailers praised the new location. “The show was good,” says Courtney Mercier, regional sales manager for Nidecker snowboards. “Having a suite to discuss orders product is great. It’s private, relaxed, and comfortable.”

The intent of the WWSRA show in Anaheim is to give So Cal retailers a final chance to run through product lines and change or review orders before meeting the early-March order deadlines. Retailers who did attend the show actually looked busy rushing to appointments.

“We were booked from ten to six everyday. We use the show to the fullest extent,” says Buyer Jason Bendewish of ZJ’s Boarding House in Santa Monica. Bendewish was most excited about the lines from 686 and Sessions and was so excited about Flow that he tripled the order from last year. ZJ’s is also picking up old ties with Ride as well as cutting some strings with K2 and Elevation.

Other shops however, use the show more to drop off orders and indulge in industry small talk. “It’s more of a social event than work,” says Alex Sperlich, store manager of Goldsmith’s in Big Bear Lake, since most of their ordering is done prior to attending. Sperlich will be picking up new lines from ThiryTwo and Ride, as well as dropping Salomon. He’ll also be increasing overall product orders by about ten percent.

Overall, it was really hard to tell if there was good attendance since every rep had a different experience at the show. Some reps were booked with appointments while others hung over balconies and wandered through halls hoping to pull in a passing retailer. Jeremy Davis, rep for Never Summer and Technine seemed to stay busy. “My turnout was really good. My first two days were booked nine to six solid. I had a few no-shows, but for every no-show there was a walk-in,” he says.

Brian Dani, owner of California Board Shop in Mission Viejo reports on behalf of the others not-so-busy. “I had a few discussions with some of the reps about the lack of buyers. Some stated that they wouldn’t be returning next year for four appointments.” Although Dani didn’t state who the under-booked reps were, he was quite booked with appointments. Even so he didn’t pick-up or drop any lines for next year and his only consideration was to increase orders for possible shop expansion in the near future.

Larry Ruppe, buyer for Ski Pro in Phoenix, Arizona expressed his frustration with the reps, stating that he received very few calls in advance to make appointments for the show. The lack of proactive calling and planning by a few reps could be partly to blame for the lack of retailers and/or appointments.

For next year’s addition to the shop, Ruppe is picking up local hero 686, as well as Sims hardgoods. “The products that are performing well are getting bigger orders from us this year,” says Ruppe, and we are sure this statement rings true for reps as well.

Overall most everyone was satisfied with the Anaheim show despite the commonly heard complaint of poor attendance. But there is always room for improvement. “One improvement that we need to make is the organization of an off-site party,” says Doug Coger, rep for Northwave and Bakoda as well as a WWSRA board member. John Hodges, buyer for Identity Board Shop with multiple locations in So Cal agreed, “It (the show) needs a little bit more nightlife.” In spite of the lacking nightlife events Hodges gets all his ordering work done at the show. He still has not decided which brands to add or drop except for picking up Agency bindings, as well as increasing orders up to twenty percent based on this year’s business traffic and last year’s buying.

To lay it out on the table, the Anaheim show might not live up to the reputation of SIA, but the show is definitely needed by most reps and retailers alike. The consensus is that writing orders would be a lot harder without it.