ELISA TAMBURRI’S SHOWROOM RELIES ON EYE-GRABBING COLORS AND PRINTS TO LURE BUYERS

E.m.t., Elisa Tamburri’s showroom at AmericasMart 11W368, can stop buyers in their tracks with brightly colored window displays, featuring items like striped and floral pants from Isis, jewel-toned sweaters from Sorbe and endearing handbags from ME Bags with dyed mink, feather or bead trim. (ME’s “The Color Purple,” a velvet hobo bag with beaded trim, is, well, you guessed it, purple.)

Beginning her third year as an independent, Tamburri sees this year as the one that will put e.m.t. on the map: She hopes to see revenue exceed $1.5 million in 2002.

With business partner Mary Relfe Russell, she splits the business tasks “50-50,” a division of labor that plays to the partners’ personalities. “I’m from the North, she’s from the South,” said Tamburri, who has built a Southern customer base since moving to Atlanta six years ago.

Alabama native Russell is on the road from Florida to Virginia three days a week, while New Yorker Tamburri is “constantly pioneering new business,” managing reorders and attending to customers. Relationship building is key to their selling approach. She calls customers within weeks of an order to make sure they’re happy with the goods and sends mailings to retailers to introduce them to e.m.t.

Tamburri, who’s a new mother, divides her time between the showroom and a home office. “I have friends who can’t believe I do it all, between Christmas pictures and sample sales,” she said.

Tamburri and Russell worked together at a showroom in the AmericasMart, where Tamburri was a sub-rep and Russell, who has also managed stores, helped set up for shows. “We both had dreams of opening our own business,” said Tamburri, who trained in the buyer’s program at Bloomingdale’s in New York.

Focusing on contemporary apparel, they carry collections from Fork, including a cotton chambray skirt with ruffle trim, wholesaling for $60, a pointelle maxi cardigan for $52 and iridescent microfiber tops by Papillon Blanc. Wholesale price points in the showroom range from $25 to $75.

Side-zip pants by Isis, priced from $22 to $26, are their number one seller; Tamburri calls the manufacturer “right on the money with trends.” For spring and summer, she anticipates more bright colors and preppy plaid from Isis, denim, and cotton and Lycra spandex from Papillon.

Tamburri said they try to keep lines in the showroom that are well known, within the same price range and that look and feel expensive, but are not — all strategies geared toward selling in a soft economy.

E.m.t. works closely with boutiques, doing trunk shows, seasonally themed events and incentive sales. A trunk show last year in Montgomery, Ala., with Sorbe Sweaters produced about $1,000 in sales.

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