FashionCenterDallas is intent on giving buyers what they want, when they want it, in 2010.
This story first appeared in the December 1, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“There is a lot of flux right now, and our goal is to be here to service the buyers for whatever they need,” asserted Cindy Morris, chief operating officer of the Dallas Market Center, which operates the venue.
The DMC is putting out more trend information, ramping up its monthly minimarkets to match the shift toward buying immediate goods and increasing its selection of value-oriented products, swimwear and men’s contemporary. It’s also continuing to augment its burgeoning selection of prom, bridal, junior contemporary and international fashions, she noted.
“We are probably the only mart in the country that has had increases in attendance and occupancy in 2009,” Morris claimed. “We are looking forward to a great 2010, and we’ve got a really good start on it. Obviously, our [Texas] economy is better positioned than other places right now.”
The fashion venue saw 50 permanent showrooms open this year, including Laundry, Seasonal Whispers, Petit Bateau and Lucky Brand Footwear, plus the new prom and bridal neighborhood with more than a dozen showrooms and a hearty selection of best-selling resources.
Officials reported FCD also achieved a 10 percent increase in vendor booths at its two temporary venues — the juried Scene show of contemporary and bridge fashion and accessories, and Temporaries on 12, a diverse marketplace of value-priced goods, junior contemporary, cowboy boots and other merchandise.
Further, the inaugural presentation of 17 Colombian designers at the October show was a success and will be repeated next year, Morris noted.
“Seven of them were picked up by sales reps, and three are negotiating,” she said. “ They’ll come back [as a group] next October.”
FCD, which exhibits fashion, accessories and shoes for every age, long has maintained a strong array of bridge dresses and sportswear as well as contemporary, better-price goods and Western wear and boots.
The bridge and contemporary businesses are getting more action from designer stores looking for lower price points, Morris noted.
“The core categories we have are remaining solid when you look at bridge and our 14th-floor moderate and better business,” Morris noted. “Contemporary is almost completely leased, and the new neighborhood for prom and bridal was a big success. We doubled the number of showrooms in that area, and I think we’ll continue to see growth there in 2010, and in intimate apparel, too.”
FCD spans five floors of the 15-story World Trade Center just outside downtown Dallas. The monolithic core of the Dallas Market Center’s sprawling trade show campus, the building also houses hundreds of showrooms for home furnishings, fine jewelry and gifts.
Bringing buyers to the complex remains a top priority. The DMC will continue reaching out to retailers who are new to the business as well as veteran buyers who haven’t shopped there for a while. It also intends to reward frequent buyers with drawings for gas cards and free dinners at local restaurants.
“We’ve seen new buyers coming on line,” Morris noted. “It’s an opportunity we’ve seen in the past, where it becomes a creative economic climate and people follow their dream of opening a new store.”
The DMC is beefing up services at its monthly First Monday and Tuesday minimarkets, when hard goods and fashion showrooms throughout the complex can opt to open. The small shows have been especially productive for jewelry and accessories reps to develop new business with gift stores.
“It is critical for the buyers because they are holding onto their dollars longer than in the past, so this gives them an opportunity to come in more often and purchase goods,” Morris noted.
The minimarkets grew this year, attracting more than 1,500 apparel and accessories buyers to date, she said.
“We are well-positioned with that because we have such a strong local rep base,” she said. “We’ve added information booths and daily prize drawings.”
To help buyers keep up with trends, the center has contracted Mudpie, a cutting-edge English forecasting service, to pinpoint key colors and themes for spring and fall. The trends will be detailed on handouts, displays in the WTC lobby and on TV monitors throughout FCD.
“Inspiration is a real key theme,” Morris noted. “We are working to inspire buyers.”
It also hopes to nourish them with better food. The Center expects to introduce updated menus in January under the auspices of Levy Restaurants, which took responsibility for the DMC’s dining venues and catering in September. Levy, proprietor of the celebrated Spiaggia restaurant in Chicago, is a leading food service provider to major sports venues and has catered events as large as the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Bargain hotel rates are another marketing ploy, with rooms starting at $69 and running up to $200 for luxury digs at The Ritz-Carlton.
“Travel costs will continue to be very attractive, which is great for buyers,” Morris asserted.