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Dallas Takes Charge Of Calmart

<?XML:NAMESPACE PREFIX = CS /><CS:BOLD>LOS ANGELES -- Dallas Market Center executives announced late Tuesday that they signed a deal with CaliforniaMart owner Judah Hertz to manage the CalMart as a combined gift-and-home and apparel venue, similar to...

LOS ANGELES — Dallas Market Center executives announced late Tuesday that they signed a deal with CaliforniaMart owner Judah Hertz to manage the CalMart as a combined gift-and-home and apparel venue, similar to the market center model already used in Dallas.

DMC president and chief executive Bill Winsor said he plans to set up a new management team to cross-merchandise the categories by early fall. This confirms a WWD report last August that such a deal was in the works.

According to Winsor, the new team will be based here, but will report to Dallas through a general manager. All positions are yet to be determined, but will blend existing personnel with new hires.

“One management team can affect crossover merchandising opportunities in a way that two different management teams would not be able to,” he said. “You’ll have a single focal point on the objective and no cross-purposes.”

He said they are still deciding whether an estimated 45-person staff will be housed in CalMart’s 7th-floor offices or on the 11th floor, where the gift-and-home staff have temporary quarters.

The DMC is one of a trio of players who leased $1.2 million square feet in the CalMart last summer for a gift-and-home accessories venue. Apparel tenants applauded the move, and said they hope it will draw more specialty boutiques that carry a mix of merchandise. Winsor and Cindy Morris, executive vice president of marketing at DMC, listed buyer development as a top initiative and said the mart’s ties to the large local manufacturing base are “underdeveloped.”

Responding to tenant fears that buyer lists would be shared between the two marts and would ultimately leach traffic from Dallas, Morris said the lists are “proprietary” to each mart and will not be used to promote the other market.

Kit Marchel, president of Hertz Investment Group, which holds $700 million in real estate in downtown Los Angeles, said she anticipates “effective economies of scale” in combined leasing and marketing efforts for gift-and-home and apparel.

“We have a commitment to make the synergy between gift-and-home and apparel work for both companies, for the buyers and for downtown,” she said.

Many CalMart tenants, who received the news in letters Tuesday morning, said they were pleased with the development.

Showroom owner Don Reichman, who serves on CalMart’s board of governors, said he welcomes Dallas’s experience and “the enthusiasm of some new people.”

Richard Stoller, sales director for junior brand Diva-licious, challenged new management to bring major department stores, discounters and specialty chains here more than once a year.

“Every strong junior manufacturer, and many of the retailers, are based on the West Coast and yet we all go to New York once a month,” he said. “So the L.A. market is getting more important, but it’s clearly not as important as it could be.”

But some sales representatives at the International Apparel Mart in Dallas expressed trepidation.

Noting that the Dallas mart has suffered an increase in showroom vacancies and a drop in buyer attendance over the last two years, they said they wished DMC management would focus on building up their mart rather than being distracted by overseeing another one. Michael Gae, whose Rep et Trois company has showrooms in CalMart and Dallas, observed that the DMC’s conservative management and marketing would have to loosen up for California.

“Dallas has very good business people, but they are very stodgy in their approach,” he commented. “California is a much more free-form, global and contemporary base.”

Gae praised Dallas’s direct-mail brochures and said he looked forward to similar pieces for Los Angeles, but he disparaged the advertising campaigns for both marts as boring and ineffective.

Asked about these concerns, Morris acknowledged that the marts have different merchandise strengths and said there would not be a cookie-cutter approach to marketing each property.

Management also will review market dates and the renaming of CalMart to California Market Center, which will be a gradual transition, Winsor said.

Winsor’s “slow and steady” approach appealed to CalMart’s Reichman.

“It means they are going to listen and not just shoot from the hip,” he said.