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CHICAGO — As many retailers seriously weigh the costs versus the benefits of traveling to market, organizers of Chicago’s StyleMax, the Midwest’s largest women’s apparel trade show, are trying to give buyers even more reason to shop.

This story first appeared in the December 5, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

In February, StyleMax expects to boast a greater collection of contemporary accessories, including handbags, jewelry and footwear on the Merchandise Mart’s 7th floor, and will be held in conjunction with the 8th floor men’s show Chicago Collective, providing retailers who carry both men’s and women’s apparel the opportunity for one-stop shopping.

In April, StyleMax again will coincide with another significant market, the National Bridal Market Chicago, allowing buyers to attend both shows.

“It makes sense,” said Susan McCullough, senior vice president of apparel for Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., about the correlating dates of the men’s and bridal markets with StyleMax. “It only really benefits a percentage of people, but there’s no downside to doing it.”

Retailers and manufacturers appreciate the connection, she said. “The feedback is all good.”

At the February StyleMax, running Feb. 2 to 5, McCullough said not only will buyers encounter new contemporary accessories resources, but a more logically organized contemporary area on the showroom floor, gathering more like vendors together.

“The idea is always to have it be easier to shop,” McCullough said. “We want to look at who should be hanging together and make sure they’re more clustered.”

In addition, organizers may create a section for New York-based lines and those from Los Angeles.

Another new feature will be an area devoted to spa lines, including everything from yogawear to candles and aromatherapy. “It seems like there’s a whole interest in the spa experience,” McCullough said. “Every time you turn around it seems there is a new spa opening and people want to have that experience in their homes.”

For retailers, it could represent add-on sales, even if the purchase is only a candle, she said. Market organizers may introduce a small area in February and grow the space and resources at the next market in April, McCullough said.

In the meantime, the Feb. 2 to 5 StyleMax, spotlighting summer and early fall fashions, will offer various events for buyers. A seminar on how to best navigate the showroom floor will be held at 9 a.m. on Feb. 2 at the 7th floor market suites, conference room 7A. Later that day, Style Watch, which runs from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. from Feb. 2 to 4 at the StyleMax Café, will feature informal modeling during a complimentary lunch. And on Feb. 2, retailers are invited to The Collections bridge and designer brands fashion show at 6:30 p.m. at the 8th floor Special Events Atrium, with a preshow cocktail reception at 6 p.m.

In all, the February show features roughly 4,000 resources over more than 200,000 square feet. The Chicago Collective men’s wear show, meanwhile, runs Feb. 3 to 5, including 300 exhibitors and 1,000 lines covering more than 60,000 square feet.

In April, McCullough predicts that StyleMax, which highlights fall 2008 fashions and runs April 5 to 8, will house an expanded spa-themed area and may enjoy more crossover from the bridal market occurring on April 6 to 8 on the Mart’s 8th floor.

Before the bridal market, buyers can register for a full-day 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. retail academy on April 5. The seminar, held on the 2nd floor pedway of the Merchandise Mart Conference Center, features advice on marketing and staying competitive in today’s marketplace. To purchase tickets, which last year cost $50, contact Stephanie Ambuehl at 312-527-7758 by March 14.

Additionally, retailers are invited to attend a free 15 minute seminar at 9 a.m. on April 6, highlighting key trends and details on how to best navigate the trade show floor. Later that night, buyers can attend a Bridal Under the Stars market party and fashion show, with the party slated for 6 p.m. and the show scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the 8th floor Special Events Atrium.

On April 5, StyleMax will host a 6 p.m. pre-party and 6:30 p.m. edition of The Collections fashion show.

The following morning, the Quebec Delegation Chicago sponsors the Montreal Collections fashion show, with breakfast at 8 a.m. and the show beginning at 8:30 a.m., also at the 8th floor Special Events Atrium.

Additionally, retailers and manufacturers will find out the nominees for 2008 DEBI awards, which honor excellence in the bridal industry. Winners are then named at the National Bridal Market in Chicago in October.

Overall, the market, which spans 100,000 square feet, features bridal gowns, prom dresses, special occasion wear, bridesmaid dresses, mother-of-the-bride dresses, flower girl dresses, shoes, veils, tiaras and quinceañera resources.