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Beach Novelties and Festival-wear to the Forefront at ASD Market Week

While affordable items for the beach-bound and must-wear garments for the festival season dominated proceeding at this B2B trade show, there was also room for an array of Cuban-themed goods and a range of personal hydration products.

Photo: Head-turning items on show at this year’s ASD Market Week.
Head-turning items on show at this year's ASD Market Week.
Photo: Head-turning items on show at this year’s ASD Market Week.
Head-turning items on show at this year's ASD Market Week.

This year's ASD Market Week, a B2B trade show with a distinct focus on the more affordable items, was dominated by a vast array of online retailers, all clearly gearing up for the summer season. This saw everything from inflatable dollar bills to 3D-printed water bottles and hamburger-shaped purses eagerly pored over. Much to everyone's apparent relief, pineapples and owls seemed to be finally on their way out, while – just in time for the vacation season – sloths were very much in.

Emerald Exhibition Events, the ASD's parent company, has clearly been anything but sloth-like. In April, it filed for an initial public offering with the US Securities and Exchanges Commission, banking on merger opportunities in the marketplace and citing the success of its existing show portfolio. Its largest show category by far is Gift, Home and General Merchandise, a heading that includes 13 trade shows focussed on consumer goods, primarily ones used in and around the home. This category alone generated $124 million for the company last year.

Emerald has also been working hard to keep the ASD show relevant and vibrant. With e-commerce players representing an ever-growing number of its attendees, it more than made sense to partner and co-locate with The Prosper Show, an event that bills itself as the conference for Amazon industry insiders. With its own hefty admissions fee, Prosper hosted a separate marketplace for e-commerce solution providers, as well as a number of "graduate level" workshops.

One of the lead exhibitors at Prosper was Big Commerce, a Texas-based e-commerce platform that helps clients work with Amazon and a number of the other large online retailers, while also building their proprietary web stores.

Explaining its own particular USP, Elisabeth Ahlburg, an E-commerce Consultant with the company, said: "Currently, a lot of merchants don't have an innate understanding of how to connect with the likes of Amazon or eBay. Even those that do often have a complete nightmare when it comes to inventory management. As Amazon and co. tend to be very customer-focussed, if there's a problem, you just get banned. If you're also building a brand, it's very important to expand beyond the big players."

On ASD's showfloor, by comparison, it was more of a treasure hunt for affordable products that were both unique and had mass appeal, with many shopping for the upcoming vacation and festival seasons. According to Katharyne Shelton, a California-based consultant on getting the best out of Amazon, there was a pronounced interest in high-margin beach and camping gear, including inflatable dinosaurs and giant $100 bills.

She was also a fan of a range of Brazilian bra straps, designed to personalise a swim suit or an off-the-shoulder outfit, saying: "Simple but dazzlingly effective, these beaded and blinged straps add a Latin flavour to any shoulder. They convert a visible bra strap from an annoyance to a feature, even for a freckly pale British girl like me."

She sees the straps as likely to be a hit at the summer music festivals, an important market and a fashion focus with a significant influence on summer trends. Indeed, many celebrities see such events as a "see and be seen fashion moment", with a number of fast-fashion retailers, notably H&M, even rolling out collections inspired by Coachella, one of California's most high-profile music and arts festivals.

From statement hats to beach blankets that double as scarves at night, the festival-friendly products on offer at ASD set out to deliver all the right vibes at wholesale prices. In line with this, at least according to Ardene's brand experts, old-school bohemian style is getting a revamp, with a spokesperson for the Montreal-based retailer saying: "Whether on jeans, jean jackets or denim shorts, painted text on denim is the new pins and patches."

Photo: Bogot’s range of pom-pom necklaces.
Bogot's range of pom-pom necklaces.
Photo: Bogot’s range of pom-pom necklaces.
Bogot's range of pom-pom necklaces.
Photo: BLK’s watermelon purse.
BLK's watermelon purse.
Photo: BLK’s watermelon purse.
BLK's watermelon purse.

If it wasn't the festival look, then it was vacation styles that many seemed to be in pursuit of. Citing the surge in demand for wristlets and purses that just scream summer and boardwalk, Judy McDonald, a Sales Manager with Los Angeles-based BLK, said: "Fruit purses, such as pineapple, watermelon and cherries, continue to do well. We also sell a lot of pizza and taco purses. Our top-seller, though, is a hamburger wristlet inspired by In-N-Out, one of California's favourite fast-food chains."

Over in the housewares section of the show, Tribal Home, a New Jersey-based rug and household goods emporium, was seeing strong interest in all things orange and blue, the colour combination that has become strongly associated with Cuba, the Caribbean island that has only just been opened up to visitors from the US.

Commenting on the phenomenon, Sales Manager Alphanatila Atila said: "We've been carrying coasters, plates and lamps with these patterns for the past 15 years, but our orders have jumped over recent months. People also keep reordering them as they sell out so fast."

Latin vibes were also difficult to resist over on the Bogot stand, with the New York jewelry manufacturer's range of pom-pom necklaces, rose-gold streaming chains and chunky bracelets proving a magnet for buyers. Spelling out the company's focus, Sales Rep Kelly Roh said: "South America is very much our target market. They really love statement pieces over there."

Just in time for the hot weather, California-based startup Quefactory was setting out to ride the wave of personal hydration mania with its new line of collapsible beverage bottles. Starting life as a crowd-sourced project on Kickstarter, these silicone helix-shaped containers, shrinkable to half their size, sold more than 30,000 units in the first four weeks they were available. Now with its own online store, the company is looking to access other retail channels, while also hoping to sell customised products for events and corporate use.

Explaining the popularity of the range, Company Founder Alex Tong said: "All our colours are gender neutral, with even our blue and purple bottles pretty unisex. As for sizes, our 20oz bottle is more popular than our 12oz alternative, which is really more suitable for lunch boxes.

"People seem to like our bottles, especially if they are travelling abroad. They want to have something reusable and they don't want plastic, nor do they want something that takes up too much space."

Those for whom a beach visit isn't imminently on the cards could still get their sand fix thanks to Washington-based Play Vision's range of artistic molding compounds. Explaining just why a concept that has been on the market for a quite some time continues to do well, National Sales Manager Jon Toevs said: "We try to think of what any given concept reminds us of and design sets from there. For Sands Alive!, it's construction, underwater adventures, mermaids, deep seas…

"For Play Dirt – a somewhat grittier version of the product – it's more about monster trucks, bugs in a jar and farm animals. For Floof – our lighter version – it's mainly snow and baby animals. We are currently expanding our colour lineup for Floof, our best-selling item. Every now and then you get this kind of hot item and it injects life into everything else."

Photo: Play Dirt: The muckiest incarnation of Play Vision’s molding products.
Play Dirt: The muckiest incarnation of Play Vision's molding products.
Photo: Play Dirt: The muckiest incarnation of Play Vision’s molding products.
Play Dirt: The muckiest incarnation of Play Vision's molding products.

ASD Market Week 2017 took place from March 19-22 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The event attracted more than 40,000 industry professionals.

Anna Huddleston, Special Correspondent, Las Vegas

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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