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January’s Surf Expo Sees Increases in Attendance and Exhibitors, Reveals New Sense of Optimism for Retail in 2024

Surf Expo Photo

ORLANDO — Emerald’s Surf Expo, the premier watersports and coastal lifestyle trade show, returned to the Orange County Convention Center Jan. 10-12, and saw increases in attendance, the number of exhibitors and optimism from the summer event in September 2023.

The show also attracted qualified buyers from an array of retail accounts in the industry, including resort and hotel stores, travel and airport shops, large sporting goods, fishing supply stores and outdoor outfitters, among others.

“We’re in retail, and we’re a reflection of the community we serve,” said Roy Turner, Senior Vice President and Show Director of Surf Expo. “Retail has been tough for the last 12 to 18 months, and I think it will still be tough in Q1 and Q2. But there was a renewed optimism at this January show. We’re buying two to three seasons out, so there was optimism for what we’re going to see in Q3 and Q4. Being the first trade show for Emerald in the year and seeing that optimism as people look to place orders, hopefully that’s a great trend as we kick off the event season.”

Focusing on Boosting ROI

Exhibitor engagement and ROI is top of mind for the Surf Expo team, as they use a variety of tools and education to connect with exhibitors and help them get the highest value from the show. Using Emerald’s Elastic suite, the team connects buyers and sellers before, during and after the show, to facilitate year-round interaction between stakeholders.

“Now, we’re able to not only focus at show level but throughout the year through Elastic,” Turner said. “We work with Elastic on our floor with our vendors, so we continue to try to make that engagement. We want to become that connection point. We’re focusing a lot on both sides of that — the research by the buyers before they get to the show so they can make appointment and connections, and for the exhibitor to walk out with hard data that they can follow up on so we can track ROI beyond an order written at the event.”

Surf Expo also uses Grip, a company that manages its matchmaking process, to help buyers and sellers find the people and companies they should meet with at the event to increase productivity. The matchmaking tool allows users to filter for exactly what they’re looking for like size of store, location, volume and more.

“The post-30 days after an event is important. Being able to keep that matchmaking tool alive for the buyers and exhibitors to come back and look at their notes, so they can pick that up after they’ve made the bulk of their buying decisions, is how a lot of young companies get started. Making that connection for that last little bit of open to buy can be really important for a new brand,” Turner said.

Another way Surf Expo is helping their exhibitors succeed is hosting town halls to teach them how to use the tools offered to increase their ROI. By providing them with the education needed to understand and use the technology effectively, Surf Expo offers valuable information and training while providing customer service that keeps them coming back show after show.

“Making everyone aware of our offerings has been a big part of our success,” Turner said. “If you don’t go out and educate the end-users, then you won’t get the results. Those tools give us the data to show engagement, and we’re seeing engagement growing in matchmaking and lead retrieval services that are part of our package.”

Surf Expo, which won the Show with the Most Commendable Green Initiatives Grand Award at Trade Show Executive’s 2023 Gold 100 Awards & Summit, is constantly refining and improving their sustainability efforts. Working with Freeman, Surf Expo implemented a single-exhibitor move-in process with a cart service, which decreased the time trucks are waiting to dock and unload while running, thus lowering the show’s overall carbon footprint. The show also incorporates composting and encourages limiting the use of printed materials.

Excitement on the Horizon

Looking to the rest of 2024 and beyond, Turner is excited for Surf Expo’s and the industry’s future.

“The beach business is fun and exciting, but it’s also a youth-market business because of the action-sports side of the business. What’s really exciting is to see people come to Surf Expo looking for opportunities, whether it’s trying to find a job or launching their very first line for the first time. My business is rather cyclical, and we’re going through an upcycle again where I’m seeing new companies owned by young individuals who are taking chances and are launching based on passion. The excitement and energy coming out of the youth market is infectious,” Turner said.

At this edition of Surf Expo, Turner was inducted into The East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame and was further honored with the prestigious Cecil Lear President’s Award for his significant contributions to the industry. Turner’s career has spanned roles including a specialty surf retailer, contest producer and President of the retailers’ trade association, to his current role as a surf industry trade show executive.

The next edition of Surf Expo, which happens twice annually, is Sept. 5-7, 2024.

Reach Roy Turner at

Photo Credit: Emerald_Surf Expo

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