A Festive Surf Expo Summer Edition Wraps Up With Strong Attendance

September 26, 2022

Harkening back to pre-pandemic times, the latest edition of Surf Expo boasted a bigger crowd and showfloor, with buyers and brands feeling comfortable and relaxed as they reconnected face-to-face to conduct business over the course of three busy days.

Held Sept. 8–10 at the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) in Orlando, the world’s largest and longest-running watersports, beach and resort lifestyle B2B event brought together more than 7,400 attendees and exhibitors spanning more than 150,000 square feet of expo space.

Produced bi-annually in January and September by Emerald, Surf Expo attracts buyers from across the U.S., the Caribbean, Central and South America and the world. The show features not only hundreds of apparel and hard goods brands, but also a full line-up of special events, education and awards ceremonies. 

According to Roy Turner, senior vice president and show director of Surf Expo, the September 2022 trade show marked the fourth event since the pandemic, and retailer attendance has steadily increased with each edition.

“This show was a continuance of that [growth] with a 16% increase year over year,” Turner explained. “We drew retailers from Hawaii, Puerto Rico, St. Johns and the surrounding Caribbean, who had not attended since the pandemic. Buyers and brands alike were glad to be back at Surf Expo and getting back to normal.”

The show also grew in size, with an 18% increase in square footage compared to the 2021 September show, with more than 645 exhibitors spanning the showfloor, including more than 150 new brands, he added.

However, Surf Expo’s positive upticks in participation didn’t happen by chance. According to show officials, the event deployed strategic, cross-channel marketing campaigns across email, text, direct mail, telemarketing, road trips to stores, one-to-one outreach from its Buyer Relations team, advertising and pre-show press releases designed to generate excitement about the brands, retailers, education and events that participants could expect at the show. 

Surf Expo 2022

Out on an energetic and expanded showfloor sporting a fun and upbeat vibe, it appeared these extensive marketing efforts had paid off, as exhibitors enthusiastically connected with serious buyers in a relaxed yet focused atmosphere.

“Surf Expo is dynamic and cool,” said Exhibitor Lauren Behning with Dune Jewelry. “It helps us conduct business with our retail partners in a way that makes it feel like we are meeting with family.” 

Attendees concurred that participating in the live event was a big benefit for their businesses, as it allowed them to connect with their current vendors, converse face-to-face and discover and touch products, all in one convenient location.

“It was nice to be back at Surf Expo,” said Liza Blok-Ponse of Tee Company from Noord, Aruba. “I ended up buying all day and staying until the show turned off their lights every day.”

Additionally, the show once again offered its Professional Learning Labs for retail attendees, which featured eight sessions covering top-of-mind industry topics, including accelerating brand sustainability, retail planning strategies and finding, developing and retaining great sales staff.

The event also hosted several special events, including an inspiring keynote address, “Transformation After Disruption–The Code to Ride the Next Wave,” delivered by world champion surfer, author, entrepreneur and purpose activist Shaun Tomson; a Surf Expo Industry Party and Post Show Mixer, and myriad brand-sponsored happy hours and multiple fashion shows.

Surf Expo will return to the OCCC Jan. 4-6, 2023.


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