ATLANTA — With temporary shows that complement and feed into permanent showrooms, and new product categories that offer more bang for the apparel buyer’s buck, AmericasMart is all about synergy.
With three buildings in a 6 million-square-foot campus connected by bridges in the heart of downtown Atlanta, AmericasMart is combining the strengths of the Gift Mart and the Merchandise Mart with the Apparel Mart.
In a management change, Lawton Hall is spearheading the movement to grow AmericasMart from regional to international marketplace. Appointed in April as a senior vice president, Hall will continue to integrate elements of AmericasMart, with the stated goal of its becoming “the world’s next great fashion capital.”
Hall succeeds Peg Canter, formerly senior vice president, AmericasMart Apparel. Canter has been named senior vice president, retail services. As such, she will target and develop key accounts, especially department stores, chains and buying services, to build the mart’s national buyer base.
The apparel mart is looking at new “sub-sets” of business to develop, much as it has built accessories areas and emphasized social occasion product in its Celebrations show during August markets. Future possibilities include combining resort and gift exhibitors, which now show only during gift markets, to show in October and April apparel shows.
New temporary shows, including Premiere and the New Temporaries, have opened up new categories and extended buyer outreach at recent shows. In January, AmericasMart took over management of the New Temporaries, an exhibition hall formerly run by Southeastern Travelers Exhibitors, a salesman’s organization.
The show, which runs concurrently with the five women’s markets each year, increased from 135 to 265 booths in April. With apparel still at 75 percent of product, the show added more accessories, children’s apparel, juniors and a new category called “body and soul,” which focuses on personal care products such as soaps, home and gift items.
“These products are increasingly attractive to apparel retailers as impulse items,” said Hall. “It’s also a good segue into loungewear, spa clothing and lingerie, which we want to build.”
During markets, AmericasMart now has greeters, including mart officials, and elevator operators that explain products on each floor and promote events to buyers. Starting in June, shows will include informal modeling, with models carrying cards that indicate where product is sold.
AmericasMart is also growing Premiere, the juried show launched in April 2002. Running during April and October markets only, Premiere is a more selective event, targeting up-and-coming designers and novelty product with a more contemporary edge, along with established lines such as Nicole Miller.
While most resources are better-to-bridge range, Premiere aims for lines that differentiate specialty boutiques from department stores.
“The show is upscale, but not limited to high-priced lines,” said Kaye Davis, fashion director and sales director at Premiere.
The April Premiere show had around 65 booths, with the same number planned for October.
Rather than cannibalizing permanent showroom business, the temporary shows have served as incubators for lines that often take permanent space. Forty-five lines that started showing in Premiere have transitioned into permanent space, with their own showrooms, or have gone with multiline sales firms.
The apparel building is 80 percent leased, having added at least 20 new permanent showrooms at the April Women’s Apparel Market.
“Growth in the number of showrooms at the April market doubled from last year,” said Gayle M. Gibbs, vice president of leasing for apparel at AmericasMart.
New spaces included reps that moved up from the second floor temporaries area and the fifth-floor Premiere space, and others who ventured out on their own from established multiline showrooms.
The permanent-temporary showroom equation works both ways, said Hall. Exhibitors, such as Carol Hansen Apparel, move from permanent space to temporary areas to consolidate lines, increase visibility and be among vendors in similar categories.
Hansen, president of the eponymous sales firm, moved from a multiline permanent showroom to the New Temporaries in January.
“The open setting of the temporaries gives us more exposure and has attracted more buyers. It also helps to be around other new lines and new ideas,” said Hansen, noting that moving to the temporaries in January helped increase sales between 25 and 30 percent.