The Lone Star State’s primary destination for Southwest buyers is enjoying a boost in mart attendance, fueled by the launch of several new marketing initiatives.

The Dallas Market Center Co. is on a roll.

Attendance was up at the last two women’s markets, a new ad campaign is in the works and the company recently relaunched its Web site.

"Dallas Market Center reflects on the past two quarters of our apparel business with satisfaction," Cindy Morris, chief operating officer of the DMC, told WWD from China, where she is helping to manage the ShanghaiMart with Bill Winsor, president and chief executive officer of the DMC.

"We saw more buyers for both the August and October markets than in previous years and saw significant increases in buyers from outside Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas and in bridal and special-occasion categories," she said. "We also saw increased interest in our temporary spaces and strong numbers of contemporary lines entering our showrooms."

Buyer attendance at DMC’s International Apparel Mart jumped 11 percent at the October women’s and children’s market and rose 5 percent in August, against the same markets last year. The increases may not be huge, but they are definitely a step in the right direction, especially considering the current rocky road for fashion retail. The company does not reveal actual attendance figures.

To keep up the momentum, the mart has hired a sales representative to knock on doors in the Midwest and plans to send its national team into the field more often to woo buyers to Dallas. The company also has an international retail development staff that calls on foreign stores.

Efforts to court retailers who sell bridal gowns and eveningwear have also been intensified. The mart in October earned the seal of approval from the International Bridal Manufacturers Association for its selection of nearly 200 bridal affiliated lines. Two runway shows at market that month highlighted bridal, prom and eveningwear, and a seminar offered tips on maximizing the bridal business. In addition, the mart is doing more advertising targeting bridal buyers.

"Our alliance with the IBMA will make for very exciting Dallas markets in 2003," Morris said. "On the heels of what has been the most successful and acclaimed Dallas Fashion Awards, 2003 looks to be a strong year for DMC."Having learned that trend information is what retailers really want, the mart will continue to stage fashion seminars presented by New York buying office Gregor Simmons Ltd. and by Peclers Paris North America, an international trend-forecasting and consulting firm.

The mart is expected to announce in January a plan to consolidate some showrooms within the building to create new areas of related merchandise, but nothing has been revealed yet.

Asked about the plans, Morris said: "We are fully dedicated and committed to ensuring that Dallas remains the principal marketplace for the industry. However, to answer specific questions at this point would be unfair and an incomplete story."

Next year, the mart will launch a new ad campaign with the slogan "Dallas Delivers." It succeeds the two-year-old "Dallas Difference" promotion that featured photos of designers who show their wares at the International Apparel Mart.

"Emphasizing our multitude of strengths — from promoting the full range of apparel categories to highlighting information buyers need for a successful market — the ‘Dallas Delivers’ campaign will feature direct mail, advertising and Internet marketing components," Morris said. "We are excited about the opportunity to communicate to our regular buyers and new buyers the range of products and services Dallas offers and why our buyers consistently tell us that we stand above the other marts."

A color newsletter for buyers also will make its debut in January. Called "Deliver," it will describe new lines, as well as offer buying tips and market information.

The mart is continuing its Star Buyer buyer-loyalty program launched in January to pay tribute to retailers who attended every market in 2001. Six hundred and twenty-three buyers made the cut and were rewarded with a gold-plated star pin to wear at market, a dinner party, a calculator and chances in drawings for restaurant and hotel vouchers and seats to the annual Dallas Fashion Awards gala. Next year’s Star Buyers will receive a silver metal-mesh tote bag with a few goodies inside as well as chances to win prizes.

In 2003, the mart will designate Super Star buyers who have attended every market in 2001 and 2002. The mart is working on the logistics to award them coveted preferred-parking spaces, as well as double the number of entries in the prize drawings.Out in cyberspace, the DMC’s eight-year-old Web site,, has relaunched with a more colorful look, easier navigation and more emphasis on product, such as photos and streaming video from mart fashion shows. In addition, retailers will now be able to fill out some preregistration forms online.

The greatest challenge facing the mart is to reinforce the DMC brand, Morris said. "A mart the size of the DMC has myriad resources, but it’s up to the DMC team to highlight them to our constituents — buyers and exhibitors," she said.

The DMC houses permanent showrooms of various products in a complex across the street from the Apparel Mart, including gifts, lighting, fine jewelry, decorative objects, furniture, rugs and floral accessories. It has long urged buyers to shop more than one category at the center.

"Marketing must convey our message to buyers that we offer an unparalleled breadth and depth of lines, educate buyers on successful strategies and highlight the crossover-buying opportunities and superior service," Morris said. "Leasing must convey our message to reps and retailers that we are a partnership working together for the benefit of the industry, growing together as the industry changes. In sum, DMC must always look for ways to stay on top, be responsive to our customers and help nurture new customers and new talent."

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