At AmericasMart, a hip remodel is designed to appeal to a younger audience.
ATLANTA — AmericasMart’s updated ambience is reflective of more updated thinking.
In January, a major overhaul gave AmericasMart a new look. Buyers were greeted by gleaming marble floors, contemporary lighting, plush white sofas and silver fixtures that were anything but stuffy.
“The industry has gone toward younger, more contemporary looks at every age, and that’s reflected in our new look,” said Lawton Hall, senior vice president of AmericasMart.
Premiere, the juried contemporary show of temporary exhibitors launched in 2002, moved front and center to the second floor, adjacent to buyer registration, from its former home on the fifth floor. The show also expands from twice a year to five times a year, coinciding with all markets.
Premiere, with around 70 booths of contemporary wares, up-and-coming designers and accessories, is in a growth mode, so officials decided to showcase it. “It’s the first thing buyers see when they walk in the building,” said Kaye Davis, executive director of fashion and Premiere. “It puts everything out front.”
Premiere’s new location moved temporary ready-to-wear and shoe exhibitors to new floors, allowing categories to have more space and better positioning floor by floor, Hall said. Shoes now occupy the third floor and fashion shows moved from the atrium down to the first floor. The move has brought a more intimate, loft-inspired ambience to fashion events and helped attendance. A March fashion show and personal appearance by Nicky Hilton drew 900 fans, triple that of a typical fashion show, Hall said.
Despite changes, buyer attendance at markets over the past year has been about even with last year, influenced by timing and weather. This year’s March show, usually a heavily attended event, was slower than usual because of an earlier date, Hall said.
Future spring shows through 2020 will be held in April, to more evenly space market weeks throughout the year. “We need to have eight weeks between markets,” he said.
Markets have shifted to accommodate changing buying patterns among retailers and consumers. Although plenty of buyers, especially those with better-to-bridge merchandise, still want to place orders far ahead of season, many buyers, especially in the more item-based contemporary market, buy close to season, often looking for immediate deliveries.
“It used to be clear that June was fall-holiday, August was resort, etc.,” said Hall. “All those rules are out the window now. Buyers know what they need, without us dictating what the seasons are.”
Markets are no longer labeled according to season, and floors are no longer labeled by
category, as they once were. “Just as retailers are mixing product in their stores, we’re getting more flexible, especially with high-end merchandise, leaning toward mixing clothing and accessories, rather than segmenting product into strict categories,” said Hall.
“Today’s way of dressing mixes a T-shirt with a $200 pair of jeans or a dressy pair of pants, so buyers need to shop all floors to put their merchandise package together,” he added.
AmericasMart’s August show highlights social occasion, prom, pageant and bridal, which have become signature categories. Exhibitors increased 30 percent over last year, Hall said.
The DIVA awards, which honor designers and retailers in the social occasion area, are presented at a black-tie gala during the October market. The nominees in nine categories are announced in August and voted on by retailers and manufacturers.
Last year, the mart added a new category to the DIVAs, quinceañera, a 15th-birthday celebration for Catholic Hispanic girls that requires white dresses, tiaras and jewelry. Manufacturers are adding the category to their lines.
Beyond quinceañera, Latinos in general are a growing target for AmericasMart. The mart has added more Spanish-speaking personnel to buyer registration areas and added signs identifying showrooms that have Spanish-speaking representatives.
Personal appearances by guest designers are held several times a year. The August show, to be held Aug. 24-28, will include a fashion show and personal appearance by Mark Badgley and James Mischka of Badgley Mischka.
The mart will continue to draw buyers with a big entertainment event at least once a year. In recent years, performers have included Tom Jones, Tony Bennett and Cirque du Soleil.
“We’re in the entertainment business, and we have to keep coming up with new ideas to keep it fresh and different,” said Hall. He added that AmericasMart will give away tickets to the Georgia Aquarium and World of Coca-Cola at upcoming markets.
With travel costs rising, retailers are more selective about their trips to market. AmericasMart is offering competitive packages as low as $101 per night, along with discount travel deals, when booked in advance through the mart’s Web site.
Rising fuel costs are also affecting sales reps, who combine market dates with heavy road work, visiting stores between markets.
“The days of picking up and going to see stores without considering the return on the investment are long gone,” said Mark Garland, principal of a multiline better-to-bridge showroom at AmericasMart. Garland said that although buyer traffic at markets hasnt increased, the quality of stores and the dollar amount of orders has.
“The markets are more important than ever, and the efforts that AmericasMart has made to improve the building and to get more buyers here have paid off.”