Byline: Georgia Lee

Following a year of attendance increases and strong leasing activity, AmericasMart Apparel is set to build strong categories and focus on promising niche markets.
“We’re on a roll, seeing a real turnaround,” said general manager Peg Canter, noting an average show traffic increase of 5 percent over the past year. “More new specialty stores have opened in the past year than the last five put together, and stores that survived the past decade have emerged as strong competitors.”
The specialty store comeback, combined with a consumer backlash against department stores and a strong Southeast economy, has boosted business for AmericasMart exhibitors, said Canter. The mart has benefited from increased targeting of out-of-territory buyers, particularly from the Midwest. In the past two years, mailing lists have doubled to 65,000.
Consolidation of apparel areas in the 14-floor building, an ongoing effort over the past decade, is now complete, said Canter, following this year’s combining of children’s wear areas to one floor and moving immediate delivery to a new seventh-floor location. The building, now with eight floors of permanent showrooms, is 80 percent leased in apparel areas, 90 percent in accessories. Exhibition halls are used for special shows, such as men’s urban and women’s swimwear.
The apparel mart, taking cues from AmericasMart’s gift market next door, has focused on building “product centers,” such as the fashion accessories and fine jewelry center, a three-floor area that is open during both the gift and apparel shows. A new bridge that links the two buildings further encourages crossover traffic.
As a big advocate of crossover merchandising, AmericasMart is expanding Philosophy, a prototype showroom that shows retailers how to successfully combine various categories, including gift, home items, apparel and accessories. The new Philosophy showroom will continue with hands-on visual merchandising seminars and educational events. The mart will offer buyers the chance to win a store makeover in April.
Bridal is the biggest niche market focus for the coming year, said Canter, with shows in October and April. The mart will target some of the same retailers it has cultivated for the August prom, pageant and special-occasion show. A segment of the 10th floor has been designated for bridal lines, offering various two-or-three-show incentive packages.
Inspired by growth in men’s urban apparel over the past few years, AmericasMart will combine women’s and men’s shows three times a year and build women’s divisions of lines including Fubu, Karl Kani, Pelle Pelle and Mecca.
The mart will continue to attract Canadian lines. Around 70 companies were featured in October’s Montreal Collective fashion show, cosponsored by the Atlanta Quebec Trade office. Around 80 percent of the lines have become permanently represented in Atlanta.
While contemporary areas continue to grow and generate excitement, the mart’s number-one success story this year has been classic or traditional clothing. Housed on the 12th floor, lines such as Sigrid Olsen, British Khaki, Icelandic and Telluride have all reinvented themselves, updating their traditional roots. (See related story on page 20.)

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