SHOP TALK

Byline: GEORGIA LEE

SALES REP: Alan Davidson, multi-line rep for prom, pageant and accessories
Showroom: 10N103
Base: Atlanta
Years in Business: 27
Q: What is your view of the marketplace today?
A: The business has changed tremendously over the past few years. The biggest challenge has been that the pie has gotten smaller, both for stores and manufacturers. There's more competition for the small retailer from areas such as discounters and factory outlets.
Q: How has the economy affected your business? Is the general economic climate in the Southeast getting better or worse?
A: The dressy prom and special occasion business is not so affected by economic changes. Girls go to proms and people get married regardless of what's going on with the economy. In a sense, this part of the business is as recession-proof as it gets. We've had an 8 percent year-to-date increase over last year.
Q: What can the retailer do to compete in a shrinking marketplace?
A: Retailers that sell special occasion and prom dresses are not as threatened by discounters as they are by department store competition. For bridal stores, discounters are more of a problem. The mart is offering a seminar in June to address the problem for the bridal industry. Specialty retailers can take advantage of off-price merchandise and promotions that are available to them through manufacturers and sales reps.
Q: What can you as a rep do to help retailers?
A: We can help by making them aware of what services we can provide. Communication between reps, manufacturers and retailers is more important than ever. Many retailers come in just to buy and never know what else we can do for them. Every two or three months, we send out a direct mailer to our accounts listing our bestsellers and our most requested reorders. During prom season, we have full-time personnel just to stay in constant contact with accounts. We also can arrange trunk shows and other promotions.
Q: How do you rate the Apparel Mart in terms of relations with sales reps and retailers?
A: The mart is doing all they can, from buyer incentives to fashion shows, to get retailers here. My main complaint is with market dates. This has been an ongoing debate for years. Atlanta takes a back seat to every market in the country in setting dates. I'd like to see more open communication with tenants about this issue.
Q: What are the major trends and bestsellers in the prom and special occasion category?
A: Trends are changing fast and furiously, from the allover beaded dresses to a much softer look. Chiffon is becoming the number one fabric, with others, such as crepe, Lycra and velvet, becoming more important. Chiffon skirts with beaded or sequin tops are becoming very popular.

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