Byline: Holly Haber

Peddling aromatherapy and libations, the International Apparel Mart hopes to woo more buyers into shopping in Dallas. Massages, paraffin dips and pure oxygen are all on tap at the Mart’s new Atmosphere spa area, a showroom designed both to relax retailers and stimulate them to buy bath, body and aromatherapy products.
“We serve herbal tea and give free samples of lotions,” said Carrie Carter, vice president of marketing. “It’s a combination of a buyer service and a way to communicate that they can add another dimension to their store.”
Pam Kramer, vice president of leasing, added, “And it gives some of our vendors over at the Trade Mart an opportunity to show at the Apparel Mart.”
The Mart launched the spa concept with 10 product lines in room 4A63 in August. But executives are not sure whether the concept will be expanded to accommodate additional lines.
“We will take it through January or March before deciding whether to expand it,” Carter noted.
The mart also hopes to entertain buyers with free cuisine and drinks, like roving martini bars and samples from area restaurants.
“We have a lot of food outlets and dine-around rolling carts with cookies, wine and cheese and breakfast bagels,” Carter said. “We are trying to foster a relationship with exhibitors in the mart so we have more cooperative opportunities. We see more of our exhibitors having neighborhood parties like “martini night” and “Mexican fiesta,” and we advertise it for them.”
Of course, the bottom line for retailers is whether they can find the right merchandise in the building, so Dallas is blowing its own horn by handing out listings of lines that are shown only here outside New York.
Plus, the mart is going cybernetic to make it easier for retailers to register by putting all the tools for market planning on its Web site as of Dec. 20.
“They can book air and hotel on the Web site,” said Carter, “and they can see the market schedule, seminar information and a floor plan of the mart.”
The center is continuing its efforts to draw new retailers to shop here, particularly from the Midwest. First timers are offered a $299 deal, including airfare and two nights in a hotel.
“We introduced Dallas to 150 stores in 2000, so we are proud of that,” said Carter. “We don’t know how many came back. But we are concentrating on the Midwest because we think that is a market that can go either way, and we have something to offer them in Dallas.”
Since men’s wear showrooms were moved from the adjacent Menswear Mart onto the second floor of the women’s mart in August, market executives have been beefing up the number of young men’s and unisex urban lines exhibiting. Labels that have agreed to show in the mart include Fubu, Karl Kani, Beverly Hills Polo Club, Sean John and Danani Dada.
“Moving the men’s showrooms onto the second floor has created much more synergy in the building,” Carter noted. “Everything is under one roof.”
Brad Ritz, one of the leading women’s apparel sales reps, said, “I think it’s a positive. The building needed to do some consolidation. I know that some of the men’s wear reps were very happy with the transition and have picked up crossover business from it.”
The fate of the mostly vacant Menswear Mart next door remains uncertain, though Western apparel and boot vendors remain in the “Territory” area on the fifth floor. Mart officials have floated ideas about leasing the other five floors to medical services for nearby hospitals, but have said they’d prefer it was used for a related industry function.
“It’s still up in the air,” said Kramer.
On the women’s side, corporate rooms have been leased to Multi Group, Roy & Ben and PMG Collection. Further, three contemporary firms have taken bigger rooms: BCBG Max Azria, Laundry and Poleci.
The mart has also moved its temporary showrooms from the fifth floor to a more convenient location on the second floor between men’s and contemporary showrooms. The lockable rooms span 300 to 600 square feet and cost about $1500 for a market.
“People want to try Dallas for the first time and most of the companies find permanent homes here via a rep or showroom,” Kramer added. “Temporary is growing, since the men’s wear piece of the business is driving it to that area.”

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