By and  on September 21, 2007

DALLAS — Dallas Market Center, parent of FashionCenterDallas, is reevaluating the 2008 market schedule. It has sent a survey to fashion buyers and exhibitors on whether they prefer the Sunday-to-Wednesday schedule introduced this year or the former Thursday-to-Sunday dates.

"We could change the '08 dates based on the results....We'll try our best not to overlap anyone, but there are only a limited number of weekends a month," said Cole Daugherty, vice president of public relations at the DMC.

The scheduling issue shared attention with fashion at FCD's market from Aug. 19 to 22, which conflicted with the wholesale show at AmericasMart in Atlanta. The dates caused a few headaches for vendors with only one sample line that had to be divided between the shows. And some retailers were forced to choose between FCD and AmericasMart, depending on which venue offered styles to better meet the needs of their customers.

Generally, the decision on which market to attend was driven by categories: Many stores felt that FCD would have a stronger showing of contemporary, bridge and sportswear offerings, while AmericasMart would have a stronger dress, prom and evening and ready-to-wear representation. Some vendors with only one sample line divided their collections.

FCD's date conflict with AmericasMart did not lead to the survey and results should be known in two weeks, Daugherty said. Executives said that attendance was even with last year's market and that buyers came from a wider geographic range, including more international buyers.

"It is unfortunate that Atlanta made the decision to change their market dates just 90 days out to overlap Dallas," said Bill Winsor, DMC's president and chief executive officer. "A date conflict is damaging to both buyers and manufacturers."

AmericasMart declined to comment, but referred to previous statements from Jeffrey Portman, president and chief operating officer.

Portman had stated that "a majority of customers acknowledged that a previously scheduled Aug. 12 to 15 date...was too early for their lines, and they needed at least 10 more days to be ready for market."

"We're not going to sacrifice our August market by adopting dates that are incompatible with the changing requirements of our exhibitor and buyer customers," the statement said. "While any change can create a level of inconvenience, we ultimately have to do what is right for the vast majority of our customers — and most of our customers are well served by our decision to hold the market Aug. 18 to 21."Multiline sales representative Brad Hughes, owner of Brad Hughes & Assoc. at FCD, said the fashion industry would be better served by unity.

"We need to try to work together to make it better for the vendors and better for the retailers, and conflicting show dates is not the way to do it,'' said Hughes, adding that attendance was up and included out-of-territory stores that shopped Dallas for the first time. "Such division can potentially hurt the bottom line of manufacturers and the choices and merchandising needs of stores."

Donald Reeves, owner of the D. Reeves multiline apparel showroom at FCD, also said attendance increased as retailers responded to graphic-printed dresses and casual luxury styles such as cotton or linen sportswear in muted and bright tones. "The market date problem wasn't really mentioned that much by stores,'' he said. "They were really focused on finding the items on their shopping lists. This was a good market for dresses, sportswear and fashion items."

Alan Geller, corporate president at the Teri Jon Apparel Group, a New York-based dress and sportswear company, said the dual market dates required detailed planning in order to cover both shows. "We looked closely at each market and what we felt would be strong at each show and planned accordingly. Thankfully, our careful planning worked as we had strong shows in both markets."

Retailers shopped with lists that included immediate fall fashion items such as tunics, knits and wide-leg, dark-rinse denim jeans; lace, metallic, brocade and beaded after-five and holiday evening dresses, and early-spring bridge sportswear and feminine flowing dresses in optic and abstract prints.

Voicing some optimism in their outlooks for holiday and spring business, stores shopped with budgets mostly even to ahead by less than 10 percent compared with a year ago.

Kari Smith, co-owner of Schaffer's, a women's specialty store in West Des Moines, Iowa, shopped for spring dresses and sportswear and was pleased with the offerings, though she said a couple of the lines that she looked at were incomplete, with some components being shown in Atlanta.

"I've heard that some retailers actually flew to Atlanta for a couple of days and then came to Dallas for a few days in order to see everything and to be certain that they got to order important spring collections," Smith said.She bought dressy brocade, metallic and lace evening and mother-of-the-bride styles from Tadashi, Alberto Makali and Niteline, among others.

"We're bringing back mother-of-the-bride styles to our merchandise mix,'' Smith said. "Customers are asking for it, and they want trendier and younger styles with a misses' fit."

Mallie Malouf, owner of Mallie's, a women's specialty store in the Snider Plaza shopping center here, said she shopped for late-fall and holiday dresses and sportswear, and liked Frank Lyman's abstract and floral-print body-conscious dresses in a spectrum of colors, from brown to brights; Mesmerize's leopard, floral and black crochet late-fall and holiday dresses, and Unyx's colorful and printed tunics and tops that can be worn as tops or short dresses.

"Fashion is all about making women look good and offering them styles that fit their bodies and lifestyles,'' Malouf said. "That's the mantra I keep in mind at market, and it works."

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