Atlanta’s AmericasMart plans to boost business by reaching out to retailers beyond the Southeast and launching a new multicategory show.
This story first appeared in the December 18, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Banking on the success of cross-merchandising concepts and exhibition formats, Atlanta’s AmericasMart is launching a new multicategory show and expanding product to attract a national database of retailers.
Despite the soft economy, AmericasMart is bullish on the wholesale trade business, reaching out to stores beyond the boarders of the Southeast. With a marketing budget up more than 30 percent, AmericasMart is expanding product through temporary shows, with the stated goal of becoming “The Next Fashion Capital of the World.” The ambitious stance starts at the top, directed by John Portman, chairman and founder of AMC, parent company of AmericasMart.
“If we’re targeting buyers nationally, there has to be a compelling reason for that store out in Eugene, Ore., to come all the way here,” said Lawton Hall, senior vice president and director of new business development at AmericasMart. “We have to offer a unique product, and go after things other marts don’t have. We know that boutiques have clothes, but they also carry frames and body products, like high-end bath soaps, and gift-related items. So we need to integrate product.”
Market research revealed several categories with potential for growth as an adjunct to apparel: The area AmericasMart labels as “body and soul” (bath, body and spa-related lines); juniors and children’s wear, and gift items. These categories are ideal for the temporary format, which allows lines to test the waters before committing to permanent showrooms.
A new multicategory show, New Temporaries, will run Jan. 30-Feb. 3 in conjunction with the January women’s apparel show, as well as all future women’s apparel shows. In addition to more apparel and accessories, new categories will offer cross-merchandising opportunities.
The show will be held on the second floor of the apparel mart, in an exhibition space formerly occupied by Southeastern Travelers Exhibitors Inc. The 400-member sales representatives’ organization, a chapter of the Washington, D.C.-based National Bureau of Wholesale Sales Representatives, had exhibited at the mart for 20 years, in a temporary format of around 135 booths.
When the current STE contract expires at the end of this year, AmericasMart will assume management of future second-floor shows. Remodeling and reconfiguring space will expand capacity from 135 to 250 booths. Mart officials estimated that around 75 percent of the STE members would return to show in January, but STE officials are uncertain of where they will show in the future. (See related story, page 27.)
The vast majority of the temporary show will still be ready-to-wear and accessories, and about 150 new exhibitors will be added.
The show targets junior lines, a category that had been previously under-represented at AmericasMart. The growth of urban apparel in men’s markets, held four times a year, has built up demand for more juniors lines that cross over with urban looks. The New Temporaries show provides a format for hot lines such as Los Angeles-based XOXO, which has leased space for January, along with DKNY Jeans and Polo Jeans Co.
Another growth area, particularly suited to the Southeast, is resortwear, or casual, tropical-inspired sportswear, led by such labels as Tommy Bahama. Tori Richard, a resort line based in Honolulu since 1956, will show men’s and women’s apparel in a 30-foot booth at New Temporaries. With three lines a year, the line wholesales between $25 and $40, and includes casual separates in cotton, Lycra spandex, silk and viscose — all in prints, mostly tropical florals, that coordinate with solids.
Sherrie MacDonald, Southeast sales representative for Tori Richard, is testing AmericasMart, hoping to pick up new business in her territory. The line already shows at Surf Expo in Orlando and at MAGIC in Las Vegas.
“All of our Florida accounts shop at AmericasMart already,” she said, adding that she has set up around 20 advance appointments.
AmericasMart market research has revealed potential in the “body & soul” area. New exhibitor Trimmings, a Corsicana, Tex., producer of potpourri and candles, will launch a new home and body line at the January show. Targeting upper-end stores, the line, known as Home & Body by Trimmings, includes a body and bath line, sheet sprays and laundry wash.
Trimmings has a 3,000-square-foot corporate showroom in AmericasMart’s merchandise mart, which, along with the Gift Mart, is connected by bridges to the apparel mart. The showroom, open five days a week, draws apparel customers during markets now, but Trimmings vice president Jackie Wright said apparel stores are still a wide-open target niche. Approximately 90 percent of sales come from home stores now. With the new line — and the new show — she would like to increase apparel crossover accounts, now at 10 percent.
“Apparel stores like this category because it has a longer selling period than clothing,” she said. “But so many apparel shoppers don’t venture out beyond the apparel building during market.”
The New Temporaries area will be transformed from mostly pipe-and-drape booths to more updated, colorful fixtures and displays and deeper aisle space. Buyer amenities include breakfast, coffee and dessert during markets.
The New Temporaries show was inspired by the success of Premiere, an upscale temporary-format juried show, launched in Spring 2001. Held twice a year, the second event in October featured 98 booths, with around 68 companies often offering multiple divisions or categories. The show, held on the mart’s fifth floor, featured many of the same lines buyers find at the Fashion Coterie in New York in a setting with fresh flowers, food, espresso and bottled water.
Kaye Davis, executive director of AmericasMart, estimated that 75 percent of exhibitors would return in April, or be absorbed by permanent showrooms. While apparel — mostly contemporary and bridge resources — makes up the majority of offerings, at the October show 12 booths featured accessories, and six offered shoes. Davis projected 125 booths at the April 2003 show.
Educational programs will expand to include new categories. For starters, in January the apparel mart will focus on opportunities in special sizes. According to studies by MarketResearch.com, plus-size apparel totaled nearly $32 billion in 2000 — approximately 27 percent of the total women’s clothing market in the U.S. Forecasters project sales will spike to $47 billion by 2005.
Seminars include a Retail Networking Dinner, slated for Jan. 30. Co-sponsored by WWD, the event will feature a panel discussion of how to integrate special sizes into specialty stores. On Jan. 31, author and former retailer T.J. Reid will present a seminar titled: “Is your store ready for special sizes?” Also on Jan. 31, the Visions Fashion Show will showcase the latest trends in special sizes.