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Mexico is Just First Stop on Dallas’s Swing South

DALLAS -- Mexico is not enough for the Dallas Market Center Co.<BR><BR>The mammoth center of wholesale showrooms, which has been working hard to woo Mexican buyers for the past two years, is now aiming farther south in its marketing efforts -- all the...

DALLAS — Mexico is not enough for the Dallas Market Center Co.

The mammoth center of wholesale showrooms, which has been working hard to woo Mexican buyers for the past two years, is now aiming farther south in its marketing efforts — all the way to South America.

“The demand for U.S. goods is heightened the farther you get from the U.S.,” asserted Bill Winsor, president and chief executive officer of the Dallas Market Center, which owns the International Apparel Mart and other trade marts here.

“The person we hire to concentrate on international marketing will do not just Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey, but also Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil and Chile,” he said.

Winsor was referring to the firm’s search for a successor to Diane Tanner, former director of international development. Tanner had focused on developing business primarily with Mexico before she left in November to join local apparel manufacturer Howard Wolf.

The company also expects to hire a full-time liaison based in Mexico City to maintain relationships with stores there and in other Latin American countries.

The five markets a year at the apparel mart drew an average of 440 buyers per show from Mexico last year, according to the DMC, which said a change in registration methods made it impossible to compare last year’s Mexican attendance with 1992. Winsor asserted, however, that Mexican buyers accounted for roughly 8 to 9 percent of registrants at the June, August and October market weeks last year, compared with about 4 percent in previous years.

The DMC’s strategy for marketing to South America will be the same as it was for Mexico. This year, it will buy an audited list of retailers in target countries and do its own audit by telephone to determine which stores would be likely candidates for shopping in Dallas. Executive envoys will then fly south to visit principals of the big target companies.

Mass mailings, like the six Spanish-language newsletters the mart sends annually to Mexican stores, also will spread the word. Winsor sees these far-flung buyers as big spenders.

“Someone from Venezuela versus Lubbock will come to spend more money,” he asserted. “You can almost do a ratio: the farther they travel, the higher quality buyer they’ll be.”

One lure the DMC is banking on is that it has more than apparel to offer these stores. It can also tout home furnishings, gifts, lighting and fine jewelry, which are exhibited in showrooms in the Trade Mart and World Trade Center. Those buildings, plus the Apparel Mart and InfoMart, are all part of the 150-acre complex — with 7 million square feet of showroom and office space — that makes up the DMC.

“One of our jobs is to create buyer awareness for hard goods as well as soft goods,” Winsor noted. “An interesting aspect is that the resource of a market center is unknown to them. Trying to articulate what a market center is to someone who has never seen one is difficult. They pretty much have to come and see it. Right now we are trying to create an apparel, housewares and gift show for Mexican buyers in June.”

The expanded focus on South America won’t crimp the DMC’s marketing mission to Mexico. Winsor made two trips to Mexico last month, meeting with executives from six department, specialty and discount store chains there.

“You have to show the flag pretty frequently or you end up lost in the shuffle,” he observed. “While we measure success by the number of transactions, that is not the measure of success in Latin America. It is in establishing a mutually well-balanced and long-term relationship.

“That’s why we invested so heavily so early,” he said, although he declined to reveal how much the DMC has budgeted for promoting itself in foreign markets.

Like the U.S.’s relationship with Britain, the fact that Texas was once part of Mexico enhances the rapport, Winsor further noted.

“Texas culturally has its roots in Mexico, and they remind us of that,” he noted. “They view us as a gateway to the rest of America because they are confident with us. About 30 percent of the Dallas population is Hispanic, so that means one-third of the population speaks their language.”

At the Apparel Mart, Spanish-speaking translators and hospitality suites with free drinks are some of the perks intended to make life easier for Latin American buyers.

Those services, plus Spanish classes at the mart, seminars on Mexico and group sojourns of sales representatives south of the border will all continue to further develop business ties with Mexico.

Said Winsor, “We’ve only scratched the surface in our two-year experience.”