Byline: Anita J. Finkelstein

ATLANTA — The new consolidated Atlanta Apparel Mart debuts at the January show. WWD sat down with mart relations executive director Milt Crane for an advance scoop on how the mart is organized and how it will work better for buyers and retailers.
Q: Give us a quick synopsis of the plan behind the restructuring.
A: Everything on floors two, three and four is being relocated mostly to 12. All of the bridal people will be together on 10, lingerie will be on nine and maternity will be housed with children’s wear on 14, which makes more sense.
Q: What’s the biggest advantage of the consolidation for stores?
A: Now, a store coming into the mart knows that all women’s apparel is housed on four floors — nine through 13 — and on the Expo level. This makes it much easier and faster for the buyers. Forming concentrated areas for niche markets like lingerie, maternity and swimwear will make it easier for buyers to cover a category and make a decision.
Q: What’s the best way for buyers to get around since there are only four elevators?
A: Many people don’t know that there are three banks of escalators on floors nine through 13 and two banks of escalators on floors one through eight. Few people have used them in the past because they’re located in the back hallways. Q: What about the mornings when everyone arrives all at once. How are you going to make the ascent to the ninth floor easier? A: We’ll be controlling the elevators in the morning between 7:30 and 10:00. Two of the elevators will be set to stop on floors one, two and five through 10 while the other two will stop on one, two and 11 through 15. We’re also encouraging all showroom owners, models and staff to use the freight elevators in the mornings. As an incentive, we’re offering coffee and doughnuts as they get on the elevator.
Q: What other steps have been taken to make the transition easier?
A: There will be hostesses in the elevator lobbies on each floor to assist people until the transition becomes familiar. There will also be a lot of posted signage and we will be issuing a new directory that will go out in advance of the show to help buyers. We chose to start the process in January since it is a soft market and it will give us time to work out the kinks.
Q: What is the Immediate Delivery area on five?
A: A new breed of retail exists and we are trying to address them with this section. They are the retailers who run businesses out of their homes or from kiosks in malls, or the ones with new stores that are going through an incubator period. These people can’t work with major manufacturers because they can’t meet minimums. Now they’ll be able to bring product directly to their shop from this area. They’ll pay a little more, but the merchandise can either be shipped immediately to the store or picked up at the end of the day. It’s a great place to shop for fill-in items for stores as well.
Q:: What are the main goals of the consolidation?
A: We want to bring the excitement and the sizzle back into the building. We’re hoping a lot more networking will be going on because buyers will be able to see each other and trade information. It will be very similar to the way the mart used to be. No longer will buyers feel they can do the atrium on each floor and move on. It’s a win-win situation.

The Mart, floor by floor:

5th Floor — Immediate Delivery Apparel
6th Floor — Fine Jewelry and Fashion Accessories
7th Floor — Fashion Accessories, Footwear, Immediate Delivery Accessories
8th Floor — Fashion Accessories
9th Floor — Better to Designer Sportswear & Dresses, Lingerie
10th Floor — Better to Designer Sportswear & Dresses, Bridal/Social Occasion, Furs and Outerwear
11th Floor — Contemporary Apparel and Swimwear
12th Floor — Misses’/Junior Sportswear, Traditional Sportswear, Outerwear, Special Sizes and Swimwear
13th Floor — Men’s Wear and Denim
14th Floor — Children’s Wear and Maternity