Byline: Georgia Lee

ATLANTA — Changes in building layout, a new mart credit card and a new look for the DIVA awards are all in store for AmericasMart Apparel.
To free up more space for temporary exhibition halls and consolidate permanent showroom space, the fifth floor immediate-delivery showrooms are moving to the seventh floor. The fifth floor will become trade show space, along with floors two, three and four.
Temporary areas now house apparel, accessories, men’s shows and spillover gift market resources. The new space will enable the mart to further develop promising new niche areas for temporary shows. This year, the second annual October Southeast Swimwear & Resort show is expected to expand on these floors, along with new October and April bridal shows.
Immediate delivery goes to the seventh floor, blending with jewelry and accessories areas, under the official name of the Atlanta Fashion Accessories and Fine Jewelry Center, featuring Immediate Apparel, Accessories and Fine Jewelry resources. The area will be open for all gift and apparel marts.
With around 60 exhibitors, immediate delivery was once segregated from order-writing areas, but has become more important recently as retailers increasingly buy closer to season.
“Immediate delivery is no longer a dirty word,” said Peg Canter, general manager of AmericasMart Apparel, distinguishing wholesale resources from cash-and-carry or leftover goods. Several permanent showrooms will also offer immediate goods in the new area.
Canter said the consolidation of permanent showrooms on floors six through 13, will make the building the right size for a regional market today. AmericasMart Apparel underwent several consolidations after expanding to 14 floors in 1989, before a recession and specialty store attrition rocked the industry. Despite relatively flat attendance over the past several years, Canter said business is starting to turn around, particularly in the Southeast.
“The economy is good and we’re seeing expansion of single-door stores,” she said. “Surviving retailers are strong and they leave good orders at market.”
She also attributed better business to an improved lineup, with collections such as DKNY, Kenar and Teenflo all having made regional debuts in Atlanta in recent seasons.
The highly successful contemporary category is developing a broader appeal, with more crossover customers, said Canter.
“Lines between categories are blurred,” she said. “BCBG may hang next to Tommy Bahama, and Sigrid Olsen or Eileen Fisher, considered more classic and traditional, have done a great job of updating.”
Special occasion and bridal also have crossover and growth potential, said Canter. Along with traditional lines, resources such as Nicole Miller and Teri Jon are filling mother-of-the-bride and bridesmaids’ needs. A new 10th-floor area will be developed for bridal/social occasion shows twice a year in April and October. The August prom, pageant and special occasion show, Celebrations, is also growing, with more than 500 resources.
Urban apparel has been a highly successful men’s category for AmericasMart. Now the mart will develop new areas for women’s divisions of lines such as Karl Kani and Fubu. Other growth areas include young contemporary, or juniors, and sports-related apparel, with lines such as Cutter & Buck and Babe Didrikson.
Along with building changes, AmericasMart has developed a bricks-and-clicks strategy. With July’s launch of the e-commerce site, the company announced a partnership with UPS Capital Corp., the financial services arm of Atlanta-based United Parcel Service. The deal offers an unsecured, revolving line of credit, “the account,” and includes a MasterCard business credit card for buyers.
Exhibitors who honor the account get immediate transaction authorizations and credit checks on accounts. The credit line does not exclude other payment forms, such as existing credit cards.
Officials said the card would offer exhibitors aggressive, lower rates and fees to conduct transactions, and provide expense reports, transaction tracking, market research and volume-related discounts to buyers.
“This is the first partnership of its kind,” said John Portman, chairman of AMC Inc., parent company of AmericasMart. “UPS already delivers 90 percent of the freight in AmericasMart buildings. We know that bricks-and-clicks businesses that enhance physical locations work best. This Web site allows us do more for our customer than anyone else.”
Portman said AmericasMart, which attracts more than 200,000 buyers from 72 countries a year to gift, merchandise and apparel shows, has a well-established foundation to expand globally through Internet sales. The new credit cards can also be used during markets, through new kiosks set up in exhibitor spaces.
More than 230 participating vendors, from three mart buildings that comprise AmericasMart — the Gift, Merchandise and Apparel markets — currently offer merchandise online.
In addition, expect a new look at this year’s DIVA awards, to be held Oct. 28 at the Marriott Marquis. Around 950 people are expected, compared to 800 last year.
The theme, “A Night at the Copa Cabana,” is a Miami-in-the-Forties-inspired night of dinner and dancing, with the emphasis on networking and mingling. Emme, of the E! channel’s “Fashion Emergency,” show hosts the DIVAs this year and is the recipient of the Impact Award for fashion journalism. Emme will also launch a new apparel line called True Beauty at AmericasMart this August.
DIVA, which stands for Design Impact Vision Atlanta, honors designers nominated by retailers at AmericasMart, and retailers voted on by showroom owners and manufacturers.
“We’ll have less musical theater and more opportunity to wine and dine clients,” said Pam Morton, marketing director for AmericasMart Apparel. Rather than sit-down desserts, guests can feast at ice cream bars and coffee stations.

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