Byline: Anita J. Finkelstein

ATLANTA — There was a new buzz at the Atlanta Apparel Mart’s summer market this week.
Vendors and merchants say the excitement stems from a combination of the mart’s recent consolidation, a new 109-foot mobile hanging in the atrium, next year’s Summer Olympics and an increase in buying.
The mart just completed a revamping of its facilities, tightening the space for apparel showrooms to 10 floors from 14 to accommodate the space for the International Sports Plaza, which will house sporting goods showrooms.
While attendance was up only 2 percent for the typically slow January market, which began Thursday and ended Monday. Peg Canter, director of the Atlanta Apparel Mart, said, “The exhibitors were happy because the buyers seemed to like the changes in the mart and were placing orders.”
One of those happy exhibitors was Kristin Smith, account executive for Definitive Clothing, who liked the turnout of contemporary stores and their willingness to try new lines.
Among those writing orders in her showroom were Shay Alfano and Maria Edwards, owners of M, which has contemporary stores in Tampa and Belleair Beach, Fla. The pair were looking for summer merchandise and spring fill-ins. They arrived at market with an 18 percent increase in their open-to-buy and also ordered jackets from Moschery, shoes from BCBG and dresses from LKL, the new contemporary special-occasion line from Karen Lawrence.
Edwards said business was up overall for the season and that they were having success with chenille sweaters, shaped jackets and anything with color.
Another exhibitor in a good mood, Carlin Hultgren of Amethyst Designs, noted that when she decided to start her line four years ago, buyers were complaining about color. “So that’s what my line is about,” she said. “Simple, easy cotton clothing in pretty colors.”
Hultgren said she was pleased with the amount of traffic in the market and was especially happy about being on the 11th floor in the Premiere section, which houses mostly contemporary lines. She said buyers, curious about the floor, wandered by and dropped in even if they didn’t know of her line. Hultgren picked up 11 new accounts at the show.
“It seems that 11 is the hot floor,” agreed Julie Routenberg and Vickie Grosswald, co-owners of the two-store Potpourri based in Atlanta.
They were out looking for summer items and picked up jackets, bodysuits and T-shirts. They said their open-to-buy was up slightly over last year’s.
The only complaint they had is that manufacturers don’t support the Atlanta market as much as they should.
“They still edit the lines for the South, and that’s why we continue to shop New York,” said Routenberg. “We have to if we want to see complete lines.”
Both agreed that the consolidation improved the market.
“It’s refreshing to see so many people. There’s more excitement and energy here now,” said Grosswald.
Eula Jones, owner of Piney Fashions, a small boutique in Piney Flats, Tenn., was buying fall merchandise from traditional lines like Cambridge Dry Goods, St. Germain and Eagle Eye.
She was shopping with “a bit” of an increased budget and was strictly searching for casual classic sportswear such as knit tops, corduroy pants, sweaters and jeans.
Jan Lasley, owner of La Fleur in Belleair Bluffs, Fla., was also looking for casual looks for her customer who “goes straight from exercise class to run errands” and needs cotton leggings and tops. Lasley said her shop carries a range of looks, but that her focus this market was on simple, comfortable clothes.
Lasley said her budget was the same as it was last year. She bought casual items from Mill Valley Cottons, dresses from Lori Ann and items from Nativewear and Chava.
Stephanie Montgomery, buyer for Metzgers in Mobile, Ala., said she was looking for cool white dresses, graduation dresses and dressy eveningwear.
“I think most stores are buying closer to season now, so we are just looking for summer fill-ins,” she explained.
The store’s open-to-buy was even with last year’s. Montgomery wrote orders at Joseph Ribkoff, Bonnie Marx, Richard & Co., Nah Nah, Nahdree and Sara Elizabeth.

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