NEW YORK — Cynthia O'Connor had a vision when she switched from being a buyer at Stanley Korshak in Dallas to opening her namesake showroom 15 years ago — she wanted to create a buyer's paradise.
"Coming from a higher-end store, I never had time when I came to New York, and I hated that no one served you food — it was a stretch to get a cup of coffee — and no one opened until after 9 a.m.," O'Connor said. "So we started opening at 8:30 and serving fabulous cappuccinos [all come with chocolate], lunches, candy — anything the buyers wanted."
This spring O'Connor renovated her showroom at 141 West 36th Street here, doubling its space to 12,000 square feet. The showroom, which reps more than a dozen lines including Kooba and Julie Haas, does $40 million to $60 million in wholesale volume a year, said O'Connor, who added that she wanted to reinvest "a lot lot lot" to create an even more buyer-friendly environment.
The showroom, complete with health and beauty products in its bathrooms, still stands out in the Garment District, but providing such amenities is a rising trend. As buyers become more crunched for time, showrooms tempt them to stay longer by offering everything from cappuccinos served by waiters to catered meals prepared by a private chef. Employees, too, are squeezed for time in jobs that more and more require trips to Chinese manufacturing plants or Las Vegas trade shows, and luxurious bathrooms include showers to help employees move seamlessly between those obligations and the office.
Since the renovations, buyers are staying about 50 percent longer, O'Connor said. With seven bathrooms — stocked with items from breath mints to nail polish to hangover pills — two kitchens, candy bowls on every table, drink menus and waiters during market, she described her showroom as a "destination place."
The 12 full-time employees also benefited from the renovations, which added a small workout room and gave them lockers to store workout clothes (perhaps to offset the effects of the movie theater-worthy candy offerings on every table). Many of the more than a dozen brands, all of which are targeted to high-end department and specialty stores, have their own rooms in the new space.
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