By  on June 20, 2007

ATLANTA — AmericasMart is on target with its aggressive goal to become a national market. In April, it combined its women's, children's and men's markets for the first time, and continues to expand key segments of its contemporary and high-end product categories.

"The defining message for Atlanta for 2007 and beyond is growth, and this year is the start, with all categories together under a single roof. It's about synergy — we are expanding our reach and growing our business," said Mike Turnbull, senior vice president of marketing at AmericasMart. "We are the largest apparel market on the East Coast, with 2.1 million square feet of product on 13 floors, in 1,000 temporary and 550 permanent showrooms, equating to 8,000 apparel lines."

The building, which is 93 percent leased, is seeing major growth in its contemporary categories, with Premiere as its defining strength, said Turnbull.

Premiere, the mart's juried temporary show, has doubled in revenue and exhibitor numbers in the last two years to cover the entire second floor of the building.

A key focus for current expansion is high-end men's lines, such as Elmer Ave, a three-year-old Los Angeles-based brand whose prices range from $200 to $480 wholesale for jackets. "Atlanta has a totally different feel than other trade shows. They care about the exhibitors and buyers and keep a steady relationship with them," said Doran Santiago, president of sales and marketing for the company, which made its debut in April and is planning a major presentation, including a massive pirate ship setting, during the August market.

NY/LA Co-op, an amalgam of young contemporary mini showrooms, has grown exponentially to occupy three quadrants of the ninth floor. By August, with the launch of NY/LA North, featuring People's Liberation, William Rast, Ben Sherman and Workshop, it will include approximately 40 new showrooms across more than 14,000 square feet. NY/LA

Co-op West, which opened in February, includes anchors such as 10Eleven, Twnz and Lit Studio.

Alpha, which includes contemporary, casual and classic men's wear, has traditionally been a separate market, but now starts one day later than the women's and children's dates, in permanent showrooms on the 12th floor and temporaries in the first-floor Exhibit Hall. Occurring four times a year, the show continues to become more upscale, with a new Lifestyles category featuring top brands such as Ed Hardy, Coogi, Reebok, Fila and Christian Audigier.The mart's emphasis on an edgier product mix has brought new buyers to Atlanta from the Northeast, Midwest and West Coast, said Julie Auton, senior executive director of apparel and events marketing. "We are emerging on the national scene. Even though our biggest customer base is from the Southeast, we are on target to be a national market, and if we have New York and L.A. lines, Atlanta is the place to go."

Major Atlanta buyers who have not fully shopped AmericasMart before are responding to the changes.

"We used to do just spot shopping there, but at this past [April] show, we could have spent three days, especially in the NY/LA Co-op and Premiere" said Bill Hallman, owner of four Atlanta men's and women's boutiques. Hallman picked up lines from Louis Verdad, Plastic Island, Saja and Elmer Ave. Although he's been shopping New York, Las Vegas and L.A., Hallman said, "I'd like to shop Atlanta only, and now we can see a lot of the same vendors here. The show is getting better and better every season."

Other growth areas include Children's World. With 200,000 square feet of product, it has broadened its offerings to include tween apparel, gifts, furniture and accessories, and opens its showrooms during the Mart's January and July Gift and Home Furnishings markets. "This reflects trends in the marketplace, as more high-end juvenile stores offer broader merchandise assortments," said Auton.

Fire and Flash, a biannual International Jewelry Showcase launched last year, has grown beyond a one-day fine jewelry show to an integral part of the apparel markets. It includes high-end designer collections, and additional temporary booths will launch for the spring market, Oct. 13 to 16. The show's dates cater to key seasons for jewelry buyers, said Auton.

Beyond product expansions, the Mart is also enhancing the market experience with off-site events that promote Atlanta as a major attraction.

During April's market, a fashion show and dinner buffet at the Georgia Aquarium was the largest event in AmericasMart history, drawing more than 2,200 people, said Turnbull.

June's event was slated for Ten Pin Alley, a seven-story upscale bowling alley-nightclub at Atlantic Station, Atlanta's premiere retail-residential development. In August, the mart is staging its own prom night, complete with themed decorations, food and music at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, and in October, it will be one of the first sponsors of a major event at the new World of Coca-Cola.The new venues not only highlight Atlanta as a destination, they also offer networking opportunities for all exhibitors and buyers, said Turnbull. "According to our feedback, categorically, this is magical; it is the way to go," he said.

While Atlanta's biggest events have traditionally been in April and October, August's prom, bridal and special occasion market is bursting at the seams. The Aug. 18 to 21 market — the first to reflect the Mart's change to a new Saturday-to-Tuesday schedule — was already sold out in June.

"This will be the largest special occasion market to date — more designers, more lines and now more space," said Kaye Davis, executive director of fashion and apparel trade shows at AmericasMart.

As major players have expanded their commitments, Davis said the 10th floor showrooms and additional temporary booths in the first-floor Exhibit Hall were fully booked for August market, which will include eight launches and expansions from Jovani, Alyce Designs, WOW! Prom, Emerald Bridal, Scala Eveningwear, D.J. Collections, Sherry Couture and Mike Benet.

"AmericasMart and its exhibitors have established an international market center for special occasion which continues to strengthen," said Davis. "It only makes sense to continue building out and growing into this new space."

In October, to further expand its position in the bridal marketplace, the mart is planning a bridal showcase that includes everything from apparel and jewelry to tabletop vendors, caterers and florists. "We want to educate our retailers on trends across the entire wedding industry," said Auton.

"At the end of the day it's about enlivening the senses and giving our customers — within our walls and beyond — something to take home with them, that truly resounds with them," said Turnbull. "It's all part of what fashion is: creativity, energy and excitement. It's another way of enriching the market experience."

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