Byline: Rebecca Kleinman

Living up to its name, StyleMax has evolved into an even bigger and better show than the first time around. It seems as though its every facet carries an adjective such as “larger,” “increased,” or expanded,” as described by Susan McCullough, the vice president of apparel leasing and marketing for Merchandise Mart Properties.
McCullough expects a 50 percent increase in buyer registration from the first StyleMax, held last October.
“Hotel bookings are coming in strong. We haven’t seen anything like this in years,” she said, attributing the newfound interest to all the new lines.
McCullough estimated the show will carry close to 4,000 lines, though it’s difficult to nail an exact figure, since half of the show participants are sales representatives who could have upward of 20 firms. (The other half comprises outside companies.) Ninety percent of the eighth floor will be sold out, compared with 70 percent for the first show, she predicted.
All the categories on hand have expanded, with contemporary in the lead.
“It’s the biggest for the show hands down, but that is what’s happening in the market, too,” McCullough said. New lines include French Connection, Tark 1, Rem Garson and Sweet Pea.
Bridge has grown as well. McCullough thinks they already had some great offerings in Lafayette 148, Zelda and Isda, but she’s excited to add others like Dana Buchman, Dismero, Oscar by Oscar de la Renta and Kenneth Cole sportswear and outerwear.
The bridge and contemporary categories cater to the majority of StyleMax attendees. “Our customer is a specialty store, not Target. Moderate is not what we want to carry or go after,” she said, adding that the show would focus on better moderate lines instead.
StyleMax is organized loosely according to price points, not by category. This strategy keeps styles from being repeated.
“I don’t want six guys selling leather jackets together. It needs to be broken up,” said McCullough.
No changes have been made to the show’s physical set-up, either, which received rave reviews from sales reps and retailers.
“Buyers preferred having everything on one floor, plus they didn’t find the booths as intimidating as showrooms,” said Erin McCann, account executive for New York-based David Dart.
Kelly Kratchman, sales manager for Los Angeles-based Democracy, also heard the positive buzz on the show. “It was well organized and easy to find things,” she said.
According to McCullough, 99 percent of the Center’s tenants will be at StyleMax. “It didn’t work for them to be in two places last time, but being the first time, none was really sure how it would turn out. Its success filtered back to them,” she said.
To drum up interest, organizers conducted two direct mail campaigns geared at manufacturers and retailers, along with an advertising campaign and a buyer outreach program offering special invitations and additional perks.
The show also includes complimentary breakfast and lunch, free shuttle service, office and Internet facilities, and two parties on Saturday and Sunday nights, on the show floor and in the South Lobby of the Merchandise Mart, respectively.
“The Collections” fashion show will be held in conjunction with Sunday’s party, while another highlighting accessories and intimate apparel takes place Sunday morning in the South Lobby.
A trend forecaster from Spiegel will present a seminar Monday morning. “We hope to offer a little bit of entertainment and education,” said McCullough.
Retailers have the extra advantage of being able to attend the Chicago Gift and Home Market, held simultaneously from March 18 to 20, 2001, on floors 12-15 of the Merchandise Mart.
StyleMax attendees can enter both shows with the same badge.