Coming off a year of growth in attendance and exhibitors, trade show executives in Atlanta, Chicago and Dallas are investing in mobile applications and digital media to make it more efficient for buyers to shop in what’s expected to be a good year.

This story first appeared in the December 7, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Offering top and new resources at a variety of prices remains the key to attracting retailers, executives said. They are building temporary shows that vendors use to test markets, and developing niches including bridal, prom and men’s contemporary.


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“Our business outlook is pretty good,” said Robbin Wells, executive vice president of leasing at the Dallas Market Center. “Attendance last year overall was up, including a 20 percent increase in the number of new stores and stores that haven’t come to market in a couple years. Our occupancy in apparel was stable and we added 25 percent more companies in the temporary section.”

In January, the DMC plans to launch a mobile phone and iPad app that itemizes showrooms, resources, events and food services, all tied to an online scheduler. The company recently shifted a marketing assistant to full-time social media and intends to introduce an informational blog next spring.

Fashion Industry Gallery, the Dallas venue focused on contemporary fashion and accessories, plans a January unveiling for a significant upgrade to its Web site, noted director Emma Greathouse. FIG also is hiring a director of public relations, a new position.

“Now it’s a matter of growing but maintaining our boutique style,” Greathouse said. “It’s not necessarily that we want our image to portray expensive, but we definitely want…the best fashion lines in the industry.”

AmericasMart in Atlanta expanded its Web site and dove into mobile applications this year under the direction of Michael Gay, who became senior vice president of marketing in November 2010.

“The goal is to expand those mobile applications, adding navigation, how to get around the showroom floor,” said Lou Ann Thomas, executive director of marketing and advertising for apparel.

AmericasMart is also sprucing up decor at its Premiere juried temporary show and on fashion floors 8, 9 and 11 for a more contemporary look. It’s working to broaden its buyer base by drawing from the Northeast and Midwest.

“Through the year we’ve all had our challenges, and we saw business progressively getting better after the first half,” said Kaye Davis, executive vice president and director of fashion and apparel leasing. “So we feel the momentum is very positive.”

The Merchandise Mart in Chicago hopes to build on a “remarkably good” 2011 when fashion markets achieved growth in attendance and exhibitors, according to Susan McCullough, senior vice president of MMPI.

The Chicago Collective men’s show in January is running a 25 percent increase to 350 exhibitors, including a second annual showcase of Scottish cashmere and wool vendors, she noted. MMPI is increasing social media promotion and launching a mobile app in the first half.

“You want basic info when you’re on the go — when, where, how to get there, who to call, the ability to look up lines,” she added. “I don’t think anybody wants to navigate 52 pages of information to find out what the hours are.”