By  on August 31, 2007

ATLANTA — Most of the action at the AmericasMart market was focused on holiday, social occasion, prom and pageant dressing. Retailers bought carefully, waiting for a break in the oppressive heat of summer to get a read on fall.

"Fall deliveries are just coming in. If we can sell them in 100 degree weather, there's hope for the future," said David Ethridge, owner of D. Ethridge, a better-bridge-priced women's specialty store in Dothan, Ala., where the hot weather has meant sluggish sales and inventories higher than usual because of later summer markdowns.

Holiday was the prevailing seasonal offering, although the market was a smorgasbord of everything from immediate fall deliveries to early spring previews. The holiday looks offered plenty of glamour. Ruching and draping added interest to bias-cut gowns in slinky satin and silk. Bling is still alive and well, with creative embellishment from beads, sequins, pailettes and rhinestones.

Short dresses, in Sixties-inspired tunic and A-line shapes were prevalent, with necklines trimmed in rhinestones, beading or plastic. Prints also took a leading role, in abstract and geometric patterns. Accessories reflected ready-to-wear, with lots of shine and sparkle creating drama.

The women's, men's and children's apparel and accessories market at AmericasMart ran Aug. 18 to 21. In addition, many prom buying groups filled showrooms for the market, which emphasizes special occasion.

Mart officials described the market as "phenomenal," citing a "surge" in attendance over the weekend. They didn't provide specific figures.

"We had good distribution of business, in temporary and permanent showrooms,'' said Mike Turnbull, senior vice president of marketing, who added that extended hours on Sunday and special events, such as a party to celebrate a new co-op on the ninth floor, added excitement. "Prom and pageant was a standout."

Exhibitors such as Mark Garland, owner of a namesake multiline bridge-priced sportswear showroom, were pleased. Garland reported sales increased 35 percent, mostly from new accounts. Opening the showroom Friday, he stayed busy through Tuesday, working new accounts he attracted through beefed-up marketing and promotional efforts.

"I'm working harder to get new stores, rather than relying on tried-and-true stores, that I didn't see here this time," he said. "I have to go after business."

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