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Dallas opens new $21 million wholesale market for retail buyers

March 2004
Dallas opens new $21 million wholesale market for retail buyers

03/25/2004 

By JAMIE STENGLE  / Associated Press 

Even though she's just a few hours away, retailer Katy Culmo bypassed Dallas for several years when shopping for merchandise for her two clothing boutiques in Austin. Instead she went to New York and Los Angeles. 

The reason was simple: She couldn't get the brands she wanted in Dallas. 

Now she can. 

She was lured back to Dallas earlier this year for the opening of the Fashion Industry Gallery, which caters to buyers for upscale clothing stores, such as Culmo's By George boutiques. "A lot of my favorite showrooms that I do business with in Los Angeles now do business there," Culmo said. 

And she'll return this week to check out the new $21 million FashionCenterDallas, which will holds its grand opening Thursday as part of a five-day women's and children's apparel and accessories wholesale market for retail buyers. 

Dallas holds five such markets annually, and this year moved its 40-year-old International Apparel Mart to a more contemporary, easier to navigate space in the adjacent World Trade Center and gave it a new name. 

About 20,000 people are expected to make their way through FashionCenterDallas this week, shopping for everything from Juicy Couture to Eileen Fisher to Wrangler, said Cole Daugherty, spokesman for Dallas Market Center, a cluster of buildings where more than 50 markets are held during the year. 

Dallas, along with Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta, offer fashion markets throughout the year, but Dallas' had lost some of its shine in recent years. 

"Now it's all about Dallas claiming its rightful spot in the fashion field," said John Sughrue, chief executive officer of the Fashion Industry Gallery. 

About 1,500 people attended the Fashion Industry Gallery's opening in January, and they expect more than double that for this market, said Marlene Fogarty, marketing director for the gallery. 

The Fashion Industry Gallery is much smaller than FashionCenterDallas, carrying about 600-800 lines compared to more than 12,000. But that's just the way developers wanted it. 

"The industry has been looking for this kind of venue in Dallas for many, many years," Sughrue said. "The world's changed a lot since the days of the mega mart." 

With high-end brands like Tommy Bahama, Nicole Miller, Trina Turk and Tracy Reese, the Fashion Industry Gallery targets a select group of buyers, while FashionCenterDallas appeals to retailers from department store chains to small boutiques, offering a wide variety of apparel items ranging from high-end women's clothing to western wear. 

The World Trade Center offers other wholesale shops that feature items such as accessories and gifts that will be open to complement the apparel markets, Daugherty said. 

"There's been a marked change in the retail landscape in the way retailers look for product and the way stores merchandize their product," Daugherty said. "They're relying more and more on a wider product array and their trips to market are becoming shorter." 

He said buyers once spent three or four days "at market," but now spend about two, so convenience is a priority. 

Brad Hughes, who represents women's lines such as Kay Unger and Tahari, said his buyers are "excited about doing all their shopping under one roof." 

Daugherty said the buzz has led to a 15 percent increase in the number of applications from apparel buyers as well as a growth in the number of designers showing in Dallas. 

"We've seen an encouraging number of apparel lines that haven't shown in Dallas before ask for space," he said, including designers such as Richard Tyler and Escada Sport. 

J. Glenn Kay, executive director of a high-end dress company Mandalay, said that the company's expansion, along with the new look at FashionCenterDallas, made him decide to open a permanent showroom. 

"It was never a dead market for us," Kay said. "It was just kind of a sleeping giant." 

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Web site: 

Fashion Industry Gallery: www.fashionindustrygallery.com 

Dallas Market Center: www.dallasmarketcenter.com