By  on June 25, 2008

AmericasMart looks to boost the profile of its social occasion category.

AmericasMart wants to turn the social occasion category into a year-round celebration.

Touting itself as the nation's number-one prom market, AmericasMart emphasizes the special occasion category primarily during the August show, with fashion shows and special events sponsored by national organizations including the National Prom Association and industry media and catalogue groups.

But now, AmericasMart will build on subcategories within social occasion, identifying with each of five markets during the year.

The 10th floor, which houses AmericasMart's social occasion product, has added 26,000 square feet of permanent space dedicated to bridal and social occasion lines.

Bridal is a major growth area, as AmericasMart builds up resources to promote bridal offerings during the October market. The pageant category will be a focus in January, homecoming dresses at the April show and Quinceañera, the Hispanic 15-year-old coming of age celebration, is a year-round occasion.

To showcase them, several new and expanded showrooms will bow this August on the 10th floor. Mori Lee, a 50-year-old special occasion manufacturer, will open a 3,597-square-foot showroom in August to offer its full collection special occasion gowns year-round.

"Because of Atlanta's strength and AmericasMart's commitment to its exhibitors, we realized the importance of being here on a permanent basis to expand our business," said Richard W. Gross, chief financial officer for Mori Lee.

Other additions include Michelle Harrison & Associates, a multiline sales firm, and new showrooms for the bridal lines Allure and Landa.

Contemporary sportswear is another growth category at AmericasMart, most evident in the NY/LA Co-op, a collective of approximately 30 open showrooms, with lines such as Tracy Reese, Project E and William Rast.

Contemporary apparel is also growing in AmericasMart's temporary exhibition space, which now spans floors two through five of the apparel building. Premiere, a show-within-a-show on the second floor, has doubled the number of exhibitors in the past year, from 200 to 400 lines. Accessories, especially contemporary handbags, make up 20 percent of Premiere's offerings.

"The Premiere show has two personalities," said Chuck Corvi, project manager of apparel trade shows at AmericasMart. "One is the high-end contemporary apparel like you see at the Fashion Coterie and the other is like the Project Show, with men's and women's sportswear and denim lines like Ed Hardy and Laguna."With gas prices and other economic forces squeezing buyers' budgets, AmericasMart is offering more incentives, including certificates for free hotel stays in gift bags this August. The majority of hotels (all but three) are available at $130 a night or less, when reserved through AmericasMart's Web site, said officials.

In addition to the Saturday night fashion show, AmericasMart will hold on-site parties during August, January and June markets, and continue with events at city attractions, such as the High Museum of Art, during the April and October markets.

Marketing efforts to increase AmericasMart's presence in the fashion community, citywide and regionally, include sponsorship of events with local designer Clint Zeagler and Charleston Fashion Week in March.

On Aug. 7, AmericasMart will sponsor Urban Chic, a fashion show charity benefit with local boutiques at the Egyptian Ballroom of the Fox Theater.

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