THE DALLAS MARKET CENTER HAS EXPANDED ITS WHOLESALE APPAREL EMPIRE TO INCLUDE L.A.’S CALMART.
Byline: Holly Haber / Rusty Williamson
The Dallas Market Center is going coastal.
The DMC in February began management of Los Angeles’s CaliforniaMart apparel wholesale building, a move that has been both applauded and disparaged — depending on whom you ask.
Bill Winsor, chairman and chief executive officer at the DMC, said the International Apparel Mart in Dallas and the CaliforniaMart do not compete for buyers because their merchandise strengths are so different. He also said a separate staff would manage CalMart.
Regarding market dates, Cindy Morris, the DMC’s executive vice president of marketing, said the DMC would continue to work with other cities to avoid conflicting market dates as it always has.
Several sales representatives at the International Apparel Mart in Dallas reacted to the news with trepidation.
Noting that the Dallas Mart has suffered an increase in showroom vacancies and a drop in buyer attendance over the last two years, reps said they wished DMC management would focus more on building up their Mart rather than being distracted by overseeing another one.
They also were critical of Dallas’s marketing efforts, calling its advertising campaigns dull and ineffective, and charged that management needed to be more aggressive in luring respected retailers to visit Dallas. Reps also were concerned about competition for market dates, buyer databases and management’s attention. And some were miffed that DMC management didn’t hold a forum with its Dallas tenants to discuss this issue as they did with reps in Los Angeles.
“Anytime you take your eye off the ball, it takes away from your job,” said Nat Ekelman, owner of GeNe, a bridge showroom that is one of the oldest businesses in the Dallas Mart. “One could say that traffic in the building is declining, and if you can’t do your job right here, then why are you looking to do a job somewhere else?”
“I think it could be a little bit of a challenge for them to serve both masters,” added Scott Harner, who represents contemporary collections in Dallas. “It will be hard to say how wonderful it is to come to Dallas and then turn around and say the same things about Los Angeles. I just don’t see how they can do it and be effective for both.”
Iris Topletz, whose Iris T. showroom sells accessories, said, “I would rather they concentrate their efforts on building our market back to the premier marketplace that it used to be.”
Michael Gae, whose company, Rep et Trois, has showrooms in both the CalMart and the Dallas Mart, observed that the DMC’s conservative management and marketing style would have to loosen up to succeed in California.
“Dallas has very good business people, but they are very stodgy in their approach, so they will have to shape up a bit,” he said. “California is a much more free-form, global and contemporary base [than Dallas], so I don’t know how the two will merge.”
Gae praised Dallas’s direct-mail brochures and said he looked forward to seeing similar pieces for Los Angeles, but he said the ad campaigns for both Marts are boring and ineffective.
“All they do is advertise market dates,” he said, “and when buyers have reps calling them all the time [about market], you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars advertising the dates. As we saw in the Super Bowl ads, you really have to get exciting to get people interested in what you do.”
Avrom Geneles, a partner in SFLA with showrooms in the Dallas Mart and the New Mart in Los Angeles, saw the move as a positive development.
“They’ve done a great job in Dallas, and it’s a great opportunity to show what they can do for the CaliforniaMart and our industry here,” he said.
Meanwhile, DMC executives remain committed to expanding and reconfiguring the Mart’s show space to include a more diverse range of vendors and polishing marketing tactics to lure more store traffic.
This year, the Mart’s hugely popular 2 West aisle on the second floor, home to edgier contemporary lines, plans nearly to double in size.
And the Little Shops, a temporary area on the Mart’s first floor devoted to new resources that are testing the Dallas wholesale climate, is also expanding to accommodate the lengthy list of companies that aren’t ready to sign multiyear leases.
A direct-mail campaign playing up reasons to shop the Dallas Mart is in the midst of a national rollout, and DMC officials claimed stores are responding by coming to Dallas.
“Women’s traffic in January was up 4 percent,” said Carrie Carter, vice president of marketing at the DMC. “We have the momentum to bring more and more retailers to Dallas. And they’re telling us that they want to stay closer to home after the events of Sept. 11 and are looking to regional marketplaces as a way to do so.”
Carter said much of the increased traffic is hailing from outside the Southwest.
“Last year, nearly 50 percent of new buyers at the Mart came from outside the Southwest from nearly all areas of the U.S., and we expect to maintain the momentum this year. Our research shows that buyers who try Dallas like it and keep coming back.”