Given the current economic climate, it’s rare to hear a showroom owner or retailer complain about overcrowding. But for Scott Harner & Co., located in rooms 4A57 and 4B55 of the Dallas International Apparel Mart, it was actually a detriment to business.

“We were at the point where we were going to have to ask buyers to sit on each others’ laps during market week,” joked Scott Harner, who owns the showroom with his wife, Terry.

The duo in August expanded the six-year-old firm’s space by adding 900 square feet, which it acquired by taking over the space formerly occupied by Tahari, located near Scott Harner & Co.’s existing showroom. Now, Scott Harner & Co. occupies 2,300 square feet of space.

“The addition really allows us to give everyone enough room to work and adequately move between the different lines that we carry,” said Harner. “We really want our customers to spend some time here. To do that they have to feel relaxed and comfortable. We want them to settle in and stay a long time so that they can see all that we have to offer.”

The showroom represents Cigne, BSL, Awake, Body Action Design, Como, Kay Celine, Angelica and Jade. Wholesale price points range from $20 to $200.

“We offer lines that fit well because they’re not targeted to a 19-year-old body, but they still have a lot of fun and style and details that set them apart,” Harner said. “Our customers want to look and feel young. They are not what I would call traditional.”

He said the company’s sales in 2001 increased by 10 to 15 percent over the previous year. The company’s projected volume for 2002 is between $3.5 million and $4 million.

“Our objective is not necessarily to become bigger by adding a bunch of new labels, but to be better every year and provide the best selection and service possible to our customers,” he said.

Although a sluggish economy has adversely impacted many businesses at the Mart and elsewhere, Harner said regional Marts have become increasingly important.

“Store buyers are less willing to travel, so they are making more use of the closer markets,” he said. “And they are also more willing to open their doors to road reps who can bring the selection directly to them.”

Harner said he spends between 25 and 30 weeks on the road each year, traveling throughout the Southwest, as well as Mississippi, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

“Our last market was well trafficked, but orders were somewhat disappointing,” Harner said. “Right now open-to-buys are about even with last year or slightly less, but retailers are reserving more of their budgets for late-season purchases.”

Tops, including whimsical T-shirts and novelty tops by Awake, are popular among buyers, as are sweaters from Los Angeles designer Angelica. Harner added that the firm “always does very well with BAD [Body Action Design].”

On a sexier note, he said lace blouses and tops by Kay Celine were in demand for spring. “Customers want lace for everything from cocktail to jeans, and printed pants are still in demand,” he said.