REPS REACT TO SPORT PLANS

Byline: GEORGIA LEE

The opening of the International Sports Plaza (ISP), which will permanently occupy floors two through four (400,000 square feet) of the Atlanta Apparel Mart, will bring a new look to the mart.
A Portman Cos. venture, the ISP is hoping to represent all facets of the sporting goods industry, including equipment, licensed products, activewear and sports marketing firms.
Tenants currently on floors two through four of the mart will be relocated to floors five through 15. Plans call for the plaza level, which houses temporary exhibit space for the Southeastern Traveler's Exhibitors (STE), to remain on the first floor during regular market times.
The sales reps' move will begin in September and should be completed and in place by January. Below, WWD asked reps how the move and the new ISP will affect business.

ALAN DAVIDSON, principal, DAVIDSON-BARR ASSOCIATES, a multiline bridal and formal sales firm: "It's a good deal for the market. The sports hype, combined with the Olympics, might not bring in more dollars over the long haul, but it should draw more traffic. The most important thing is consolidation of the mart. Buyers are concerned when they get off the elevators and see empty showrooms. If you go to a restaurant at 9 p.m. and it's empty, then you want to walk out, and it's the same thing with buyers. We're currently on five and will be moving to 10. It's good for us, because it will consolidate bridal and formal resources into one floor."

FRED DE LUCA, president, Southeastern Traveler's Exhibitors, and multiline sportswear rep on the first (Plaza) floor: "Everybody's in favor of consolidation, but I'm opposed to the way it's being done. We're concerned that STE's first floor will be separate from the rest of the mart. Ideally, we'd like the mart to occupy the bottom floors and the sports plaza or whatever could be above that. Also, I question whether bringing in all the sports-related business, which should include retail, will compromise the integrity of the building, which has always been devoted to business people coming to buy apparel. The image of the mart is very important in determining which show buyers attend."BILL NAJGER, principal, NAJGER & ASSOC., a multiline moderate-to-better sportswear firm: "Consolidation of the building will make it easier on buyers, because they will spend less time traveling all over the building. That's important, since buyers come for shorter periods of time now. We're waiting to see what sports companies come in. It would be nice if our businesses would overlap. The sports industry is a healthy one, and activewear is very important. It's something we may consider getting into in the future."

JACK STAPLETON, principal, STAPLETON SALES INC., a multiline contemporary sportswear firm: "We need something to increase traffic, but I'm curious and skeptical as to whether they'll be able to accomplish what they've set out to do. I also don't think we tenants should be the ones that have to move. We're in ideal locations now, and it doesn't seem right that buyers will have to find us."

JUDY DEWALT, principal, NATURAL DISCOVERIES, a multiline contemporary sportswear firm. "I think it's a good positive move for the mart, although I do think they should have moved us down instead of up. I'm planning to move to 11, and I will be consolidating the number of lines I carry. I'm concerned about the elevator situation and people being able to easily get to us."

ERIC BENJAMIN, principal, CORTIVA, an activewear manufacturer with a corporate showroom. "I think they need to provide more information to the existing showrooms. They really haven't given us much, the rumors are rampant and we all have questions. It could be a good thing and would be good for us, but they still haven't signed any leases. The main object is to increase traffic and excitement in the mart, and without definite signed leases, it could backfire big-time."

STEVE LEIB, principal, LEIB ASSOCIATES INC., a multiline bridge sportswear firm: "Now, the building, with back aisles full of empty showrooms, looks desolate. Buyers get the feeling nobody's here, and they wonder why they're here. Consolidation is a must, and we need activity to make retailers feel better. I think the consolidation will enable us to see buyers more often, rather than directly increase attendance.
We're on the 9th floor, so we don't have to physically move. The main effect this will have on us is that it will create more activity and excitement, and hopefully if they fill the building, rents will become more stable."

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