AFTER THE CATASTROPHE
BUYERS SEEK OPTIONS TO SHOPPING IN NEW YORK.
Byline: Georgia Lee
Most of the copy for this issue of WWD Atlanta was written before Sept. 11 and does not address the terrorist attacks or the effects that will continue to unfold for the apparel industry. However, in the week following the events, WWD spoke to regional marts and specialty stores around the country, on the immediate impact on buying and travel to market trips.
Following the attacks, regional apparel markets received dozens of calls from manufacturers and buyers looking at buying options outside New York. Retailers needed to buy spring goods, just as New York shows canceled or postponed, and buyers often expressed concerned about travel to New York.
A consequence of the attacks, though a sad one, is that regional marts could become more important than ever, at least for the near term.
“We all feel terrible about what happened, and wanted to help in any way we could,” said Peg Canter, general manager, AmericasMart apparel. With many buyers that normally shop New York exclusively calling to book trips to Atlanta, she predicted strong attendance at the upcoming October market, which is always an important one.
Along with geographic alternatives to New York, buyers were also looking to do more business by phone or mail. Some said they would still shop New York when shows were rescheduled. Buyers cut spring budgets further, that were already down due to a slow economy. Retailers expected resort and spring deliveries to be delayed, and a later selling season than usual.
Julie Routenberg, owner, Potpourri, a women’s specialty store with two Atlanta locations, said she would make quick trips to New York in October, and would buy more in Atlanta, a market she expects to be “huge.” She will cut her spring buy, leaving opportunities to reorder.
“Both retailers and manufacturers will have to work together to adjust deliveries,” she said.
Suzanne Lerner, owner, Lerner et Cie showrooms in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas and Atlanta, said her New York outlet was quiet in the weeks following the attacks. She expects to make up traffic in regional showrooms, but said that buyers who that don’t get a chance to preview spring at Coterie may arrive feeling harried.
“Without that time to preview, they’ll come here and be running around with lots of things to do,” said Lerner. “We’ll edit our collections earlier to make it easier for them.”
MAKE A BEE-LINE FOR A-LINE
Breaking out of the regional mold, AmericasMart Apparel will launch a new trade show, A-Line, that promises the same hot lines lines buyers now find only in New York.
The aggressive new show will debut in April 2002. Designed to rival successful New York shows, such as the Fashion Coterie, A-Line will target European and U.S. designers that don’t show in Atlanta, in a juried selection process. Officials wouldn’t name names on the hit list, but hinted that many Coterie lines would be targeted.
The show will feature 150 10-by-10-foot hardwall booths initially, in exhibition space on the Fifth floor of the Apparel Mart. Currently, floors six through 13 house permanent showrooms. A-Line will run consecutively with regularly scheduled women’s and children’s markets, each April and October. The in-between markets will proceed as scheduled.
A-Line product will include women’s ready-to-wear, sportswear. Around 25 percent will be high-end accessories, and the show will offer a new shoe gallery for high fashion footwear, on the Eighth floor.
“We want every Southeast retailer to spend the majority of their open-to-buy here, and eliminate the need for so many New York buying trips,” said Peg Canter, general manager, AmericasMart apparel. “And we want to extend our reach beyond the Southeast states with new product.” Canter said she hoped the new show would bring in around 300 new stores.
Officials said that leasing rates would be competitive with similar trade shows. To avoid conflicts with Atlanta showroom reps, a line will only be eligible that has not shown in Atlanta for at least one year, unless the sales rep agrees to release a line. The mart hopes the show will also serve as an incubator for lines to become permanently represented in the building.
AmericasMart fashion director Kaye Davis will sell space for the show, as executive director of fashion/A-Line. She will report to Gayle Gibbs, a betterwear leasing agent, who has been promoted to vice president of leasing. The mart will hire an additional field marketing representative to spread the word to new retailers in outside territories.
With a separate marketing budget, the show will advertise in trade publications, and launch an extensive direct mail campaign. A-Line will have a sophisticated setting, said officials, with fresh flowers, free lunch, and extras such as a Buyers salon, mini-massages and mini-makeovers.
Permanent sales reps responded positively to the idea, hoping that an increase in building traffic would benefit everyone. Attendance during markets has been mostly flat in recent years, primarily due to a decline in the number of specialty stores, which are the mart’s bread-and-butter customers.
“In the long run, it’s a win-win-win situation,” said Brad Johnson, principle, Ambrosia & Co., a large multi-line sales firm. “More vendors and more buyers mean more traffic and revenue, and that money can be spent on more events and marketing. And as a rep, I can see new lines here without going to New York so often.”