By  on May 8, 2007

ATLANTA — New dates, combined shows, extended hours and packed special events created buzz, and some controversy, at AmericasMart's fall show as buyers and exhibitors reacted to new initiatives.

The show, which ran April 15 to 18, featured two big changes: It ran from Sunday-to-Wednesday, instead of Thursday-to-Sunday. And the market combined for the first time the women's, children's and accessories market with the Alpha men's wear show. Show dates have again been shifted, this time to Saturday-to-Tuesday.

"It was a market of experiments and innovation," said Mike Turnbull, senior vice president of marketing for AMC, AmericasMart's parent, who said the initiatives helped boost attendance.

Turnbull wouldn't give overall numbers, but said 1,000 buyers registered Saturday before Sunday's opening day, creating long lines at registration areas. Sunday included extended show hours until 8 p.m., and such hoopla as a balloon drop, prize giveaways and a performance by Montreal's Cirque Eloize that accompanied a fashion showcase of Canadian lines at AmericasMart.

Many exhibitors were pleased with Sunday traffic, but some reported a drop as the show went into Wednesday afternoon.

"Sunday was our biggest market day ever, with sales in seven figures," said Brad Johnson, principle of Ambrosia & Co., a contemporary sales firm.

But Lauren Sheets, of Lauren Pink, another contemporary showroom, said the timing of the mart, in mid- to late April, combined with the date change, threw off traffic, resulting in lower sales by as much as 20 percent. Other sales reps agreed that traffic declined during the week.

"Customers complained [about the dates] and we had no showroom help, because we rely on part-time workers that are hard to get during the work week," she said. "This major market was not a good time for such a major change."

Some buyers, however, said the weekday format allowed better access to vendors' corporate offices in New York when questions arose. Others said the weekdays provided better opportunities for reservations at restaurants, while others complained of a lack of nightlife in the early weeknights. Still others said they needed to be in stores or home with schoolkids.

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