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O.C. BUSINESS PLUS | HEARD ON THE BEAT / RETAIL

Skate Shoe Firms to Roll Out Wares at Sports Trade Show

February 01, 2001|LESLIE EARNEST

Shoes will play a starring role at the Action Sports Retailer trade show this weekend, as a new company backed by Nike Inc. pushes its skate products and two Southland footwear makers launch new styles for women.

Savier Inc., which says it got its seed money from Nike and is using the footwear giant's in-shoe air-bag technology, will debut its skate shoes, apparel and backpacks at the Long Beach show, a key industry event that is not open to the public.

"This is Nike's stealth way of . . . going after the skate market," said Court Overin, the trade show's director.

Previously, Beaverton, Ore.-based Nike had opened ACG (All Condition Gear) South in Irvine to push surf and skate apparel, but that office closed after only a month. The ill-fated effort shows how difficult it is to break into the tightknit surf and skate market, which tends to close ranks when a large corporation enters the fray.

Savier may have better luck because it will be headed by "core skate and snow guys" from inside the skateboarding and snowboarding industries, Overin said.

Jeff Jewett, marketing director for Portland-based Savier, attempted to distance his company from Nike.

"They're selling technology so they're making money off us, and they get their technology where they otherwise wouldn't," Jewett said. "We do whatever we want."

A Nike ACG spokesman declined to comment on Savier but said Nike has been "doing some reassessment" and has "moved a bit away from surf and skate." It is phasing out its skate-shoe line, Nate Tobecksen said.

Nike ACG "focuses on trail, snow and water," particularly river sports, Tobecksen said. "I don't think skate and surf really fell into that category of person."

Leslie Earnest covers retail businesses for The Times. She can be reached at (714) 966-7832 and at leslie.earnest@latimes.com.

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