Orange County Convention Center Hosts Robust and Growing ASI Show and Surf Expo
The Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) in Orlando, Fla., recently kicked off 2023 with two simultaneous, industry-leading trade shows held Jan. 4-6 that boasted sizable upticks in attendance and strong buying activity.
ASI Show Orlando
As the first promotional products industry show of the year, ASI Show Orlando attracted 4,500 supplier and distributor professionals to a lively show floor packed with more than 700 booths showcasing the leading in-stock products of 2023. Of the nearly 400 exhibiting companies, 65 were new to Orlando this year.
The show also attracted 351 woman-owned and 132 minority-owned supplier and distributor companies.
Strategically scheduled in early January to help kick off a strong sales year, the show boasted a 50% increase in distributor attendance compared to ASI’s 2022 Orlando show, according to show officials.
“We charged into a brand new year by delivering a fantastic show for suppliers and distributors eager to jump into action,” said Timothy M. Andrews, president and CEO of the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI), which produces the show and is the largest membership organization and technology provider in the $23.2 billion promotional products industry.
He continued, “After witnessing everyone coming together, networking, cutting deals and having fun along the way, I’ve never been more excited about the future of the promo products industry.”
Out on the show floor, both suppliers and distributors expressed enthusiasm about the energy and productivity of ASI Orlando.
“This is one of the best trade show experiences I’ve ever had,” said Distributor Mark Rosen, of Royal Stitch and Print. “From the education sessions, the keynotes and the amazing suppliers on the show floor, I’ve learned so much about how to do business more effectively and efficiently.”
He added, “I’m leaving with some new and amazing industry relationships, which I’m sure will have a positive impact on my business.”
The show also posted strong numbers for all of its events, special perks and networking opportunities, with 862 distributors taking part in sales and marketing classes on ASI’s Education Day; more than 750 attending ASI’s Promo Party at Universal CityWalk; and hundreds lining up for free professional headshots on the show floor.
Additionally, sales expert Shawn Rhodes energized a packed house, while MLB champion-turned business mogul and keynote speaker Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez inspired 400 entrepreneurs and small-business owners during a nearly hour-long onstage Q&A with Andrews.
ASI also chose its biggest show of the year to officially launch ESP+, an intuitive, integrated and innovative platform designed to enable promotional products professionals to find and sell products faster as well as run their businesses smarter and more efficiently.
ASI Orlando is one of three shows in ASI’s flagship series of large-scale, in-person trade shows held annually in Orlando, Fort Worth and Chicago. The ASI Show Family of Events also includes fASIlitate and ConneX, hosted buyer events designed to foster business-building relationships among ASI distributor and supplier members.
As the world’s largest and longest-running watersports, beach and resort lifestyle trade show, the biannual Surf Expo heralded a sizable uptick in attendance, boasting a 21% year-over-year gain, with more than 8,500 industry professionals converging for a robust buying and selling show floor experience.
“The surf, coastal and resort markets are thriving and vibrant,” said Roy Turner, senior vice president and show director of Surf Expo, which is produced by Emerald. “We were thrilled to see that qualified buyer attendance was up [more than] 20% at this show over the previous year, with more than 4,100 qualified buyers attending. These retailers from the U.S. and more than 60 different countries got to check out more than 750 brands.”
According to show officials, the show’s surf section was larger than at the September 2022 edition, with 27 new exhibitors and many brands attending for the first time.
Many buyers said they were looking for fresh brands and ideas to keep their retail floors updated with the latest trends, while other retailers valued the opportunity for face-to-face meetings with brand executives.
“We had a really great experience at this year’s show,” said Luke Mesanko of Wanderlust & Sea in New Jersey. “A lot of the next-gen brands got our attention, and we had time to build up those relationships. We had some really great dinners and lunches with business executives and their teams. All around, it was super productive, and the vibes were high.”
On the flipside, exhibitors said they were thrilled with the buyer turnout and interest, with some enjoying fast and furious business.
“As a new brand into our third year, this was our busiest show we have had since we launched,” said Don Dyer, vice president of sales for I-SEA. “Tons of retailers showed up to write business. We saw over 130 retailers in two and a half days. This was the best Expo I have seen in the last eight years.”
In addition to the busy sales floor, Surf Expo hosted free professional learning labs and multiple fashion shows, as well as an annual surfboard shaping contest and exhibition that promotes the craft of hand-shaping surfboards.
Surf Expo will return to the OCCC Sept. 7-9.