By  on December 8, 2004

CHICAGO — Who says less is more? At Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, more is more in 2005.

Market organizers are providing increased opportunities to shop the popular StyleMax show, Chicago’s largest women’s apparel event, conducting comprehensive markets in March, August and October.

Urbanwear buyers also will have   more times to shop the almost one-year-old Pulse, set for January, March, June and September.

That’s not all. StyleMax will move to the Mart’s renovated seventh floor. In turn, the show, which, on average, boasts some 4,000 resources, will be remerchandised, featuring longer aisles and more natural groupings of categories.

“You always want to make it as easy as you can for buyers to shop,” said Susan McCullough, vice president of apparel for Merchandise Mart Properties Inc.

Moving to the seventh floor, with its new carpeting and open space, creates more room for contemporary and young contemporary lines, which were “landlocked” on the eighth floor. Prior to the reconfiguration, a buyer might have found a misses’ line next to a young contemporary manufacturer, McCullough said.

Also, according to McCullough, there is a stronger bridge selection, including more dress and special-occasion vendors, as well as an expanded outerwear collection for the upcoming March edition.

StyleMax, which has experienced double-digit growth annually since its inception four years ago, picks up a third show in 2005 and adds a fourth show in January 2006.

“Manufacturers said they want regular access to their Midwest customers four times a year,” McCullough said. “This is something we always planned to do. We hope our four shows will be competitive with anywhere else in the world.”

This year’s new August show “will find its own identity,” McCullough said, noting that resort and swimwear will be obvious key categories. “For shows, it takes a year to sort themselves out. We anticipate the core of the show will be the same [as March and October],” she said.

StyleMax also has begun to attract buyers from outside its immediate territory. “Our base is really starting to spread out,” McCullough said. “We’re getting retailers from South Carolina, Kentucky and Georgia.”McCullough attributes StyleMax’s success to the wide variety of lines represented, the ease of shopping and its proximity to home for many retailers. She said the improved seventh-floor location should provide even more incentive to attend.

In the meantime, buyers likely will bear the colder temperatures to check out two major markets in January.

Pulse kicks off the new year, running Jan. 11-13 on the Mart’s eighth floor. The show, which specializes in denim, street, urban and board sports apparel, boasts some of the major players in the women’s market such as Rocawear Juniors, Baby Phat and Apple Bottoms. Women’s shoe lines exhibiting include Blink, Diba and Bronx.

“We are very excited about growing our Pulse shows,” McCullough said. “As this show matures, we expect to add categories and expand others. We will add urban dress-up, and expand footwear. We also plan to grow our women’s offerings.”

Presently, women’s apparel accounts for roughly 25 to 30 percent of the market, with men’s wear dominating.

As a new incentive, buyers can take advantage of a free dinner, along with a complimentary lunch at the January Pulse, which runs 10 a.m.-8 p.m. the first two days and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on the show’s final day.

A second Pulse, set for March 1-3, will feature its first fashion show, and the market’s third edition is slated for June 28-30.

Following Pulse, January continues to be a busy market month in Chicago. The summer and fall preview Women’s and Children’s Apparel Market is scheduled for Jan. 21-25 at Chicago’s Apparel Center.

Retailers tend to use the showroom-focused market to fill in for spring, scout for fresh merchandise and scoop up the latest accessories, McCullough said.

A highlight will be the Trend Watch event at 8:15 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 23, at the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza Wolf Point Ballroom. The season’s top trends will be detailed in an audio-visual presentation and with runway models. A continental breakfast is available at 8 a.m.

For crossover buyers, a corresponding January Chicago Gift and Home Market is set for Jan. 19-26 on the Mart’s newly renovated seventh and eighth floors.A few weeks later, from March 6-8, the Fall National Bridal Market Chicago will attract thousands of retailers from all 50 states and beyond to the seventh floor of the Merchandise Mart.

Last year, organizers created space for all resources to be housed on one floor. Even those with showrooms set up temporary spaces to do business and conduct fashion shows.

“It was what the industry needed,” McCullough said. “The buyers were so happy not to go back and forth [to showrooms]. The manufacturers were happy, too.”

Some 300 exhibitors, many of which may have 10 different lines, will fill the newly remodeled seventh floor.

Buyers wondering how to best maneuver the new layout can check out “Maximize Your Shopping Experience,” a brief seminar touching on the season’s top trends and explaining the market’s new organization. It’s set for 8:30 a.m. in the seventh-floor market suites conference room on Sunday, March 6.

Also Sunday is the Seventh Heaven market party and bridal fashion show. The party celebrating the new trade show floor begins at 6 p.m. and will be followed by a fashion show at 6:30 p.m. in the eighth-floor market suites special event area.

A bridal seminar, topic to be determined, also is scheduled for 8:15 a.m., Monday, March 7, in the seventh-floor Merchandise Mart conference center. A continental breakfast is available at 8 a.m.

Additionally, retailers and manufacturers will find out the nominees for the 2005 DEBI awards, which honor excellence in the bridal industry. Winners are then named at the National Bridal Market in October.

Later in the month, StyleMax hits the Mart’s seventh floor March 19-22. A seminar, “How to MAXimize Shopping the New Floor,” will be conducted at 9:30 a.m. on March 19 in the seventh-floor market suites conference room. The 15-minute briefing will highlight the top 10 fall trends and explain how to best navigate the new market.

In the evening, buyers can check out Canadian resources at the Montreal Collections fashion show set for 6 p.m. in the eighth-floor market suites special event area. Sponsored by the Quebec Delegation Chicago, the show will treat retailers to cuisine, cocktails and a lively runway presentation.On Sunday, the STYLEmakers fashion show wakes things up at 8:15 a.m. in the eighth-floor market suites special event area. A continental breakfast is available prior to the show, which highlights contemporary fall looks, accessories and intimate apparel.

An evening fashion show, called The Collections, ends the day. The event includes 6 p.m. cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and a 6:30 p.m. fashion show, again in the eight-floor market suites special event area. This show features women’s better, bridge and designer lines.

Lastly, in June, the Mart offers the Fall II & Holiday Preview Women’s and Children’s Market June 3-6 at Chicago’s Apparel Center.

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