FLORIDA REPS: THE ATLANTA ATTRACTION

Byline: BRENDA LLOYD

ATLANTA--What is it about the Atlanta Apparel Mart that is attracting Miami sales representatives to open showrooms there?
The Florida sales reps, who are still keeping their Miami Merchandise Mart showrooms, say it's the lure of expanding their territories to reach all of the Southeast as well as their Florida retail customers who shop the Atlanta markets for the better apparel they offer. The sales reps also credit the flexibility and hospitality of the Atlanta Apparel Mart staff.
According to Milt Crane, executive director of Mart relations, approximately 185 Florida sales representatives are showing at Atlanta markets now--60 in permanent showrooms and 125 in temporary spaces. Although he doesn't know how many have opened in the last year or so, Crane says the number is "definitely on the upswing. And there have been many more the past two years."
For the Florida sales representatives, both markets have become equally important--Miami because it caters to Florida, Latin America and the Caribbean; Atlanta because it services the Southeast.
In addition, the Mart has targeted Florida as a market because of its rapid growth, large number of independent specialty stores and the many new stores that are opening there. At the Atlanta Apparel Mart, many Miami representatives have chosen to open showrooms on the contemporary women's apparel 11th floor, either in full showroom space or in Premiere on 11, where sales reps can maintain a permanent space but need only be present for the shows.
Jamie Miller, Southeast sales representative for Calvin Klein Jeanswear, moved into her own space in Premiere on 11 last year after having shown her line in a shared space for past three years. "Now," she says, "I have my own space, and business has been incredible."
Before opening her own showroom in Atlanta, Miller developed her Southeast territory by going on the road and building up a rapport with retailers. Now she sees some 50 retailers at every market--both repeat customers and new accounts. She continues to maintain a full-time showroom in Miami.
So do Sandy Cooper, Gail Packman, Pat Berger and Rivi Uberbaum. In fact, Packman, owner of Gail Packman & Associates, is on the Southern Apparel Exhibitors board of directors in Miami. "I go to Atlanta because so many northern Florida stores drive to Atlanta," says Packman. "But I have a loyalty to Miami." By being in both marts, she reaches the whole Southeast market.
Packman is pleased with the results after a year in the Mart. She represents contemporary lines, which include Isda & Co., Margaret O'Leary and Bettina Riedel, in Premiere on 11. But she also has more romantic-type lines, which do well in the Atlanta Mart.
"There are two types of customers in the Southeast," she says. "One is clean and elegant, the other is romantic and vintage."
Sandy Cooper, owner of the Sandy Cooper Sales Group, which represents primarily California resources such as Mosquito, Michi Collection, Staples, Roody Kazoody, Retro Vare, Roni M. and Nava Belts, says that she opened a permanent showroom last August on the 11th floor in the Atlanta Mart at the request of a couple of her companies. "I need to be in both places," says Cooper, who is expanding her territory. "The demand of the retail customer requires it." From Miami, she can cover Florida and the Caribbean; from Atlanta, she handles the rest of the Southeast plus Puerto Rico. Atlanta, she added, is a "crossroads" bordering several states.
Pat Berger, president of Pat Berger Associates, which represents only contemporary lines, including For Joseph, E.D. Lee and Mevisto, has had a showroom at the Miami Mart for 12 years. In 1994, she opened a showroom in Premiere on 11, which she uses full time. With a showroom at the Atlanta Mart, she says, "I have my lines for the entire Southeast now, which more than doubles my business." In fact, because she covers the entire Southeast, Berger was able to add two lines. "It gives you more clout," she explains.
Rivi Uberbaum, an owner of Rivi & Associates, says she opened a showroom in Atlanta because she found that retailers who go there are loyal to the Atlanta market. "If they get to know you, like your product and trust you, they keep coming back," she says. "I find that everyone here is extremely nice, and they always show up for appointments."
But, she added, she has to go to both Marts. In doing so, she is expanding her market, she says.
Uberbaum represents several lines, including two new ones--D. Foster, a bridge designer line, and Zoog, which is coordinated sportswear.
Milt Crane says that retailers shopping the Mart are looking for "new and exciting lines" to differentiate them from their competitors, and the contemporary side of the business is "exploding" now. But, he added, a lot is happening in classic looks as well, and the Florida sales representatives offer both contemporary and classic lines.
Rhonda Shanks, leasing manager for better wear at the Atlanta Apparel Mart, says the Florida reps opening showrooms in Atlanta are the more aggressive ones. "These reps realize they can go to Atlanta and pick up additional Southeast business that they wouldn't have in Miami."

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