Since it opened in the 1930s, the Merchandise Mart has existed as a trade-only design center, allowing decorators and designers exclusive access to its showrooms. Now, according to a report in Chicago's WLS, the Merchandise Mart is opening its doors to the public in hopes of boosting traffic during the recession.
"The public is going to really jump at the opportunity to really get to know this building and find out what is inside," said George Rosenbaum of Leo J. Shapiro and Associates, a market research company. Retail customers will still be required to work with the Mart's 38 on-site designers, who will help close the sale and provide a substantial discount.
"It's about being more user friendly ," said Jeff Niedermaier of Niedermaier Furniture. "Absolutely, [it will be good for business]. You have to do everything possible."
In contrast, Mark Blumenthal of Deaurora, a 30-year Mart tentant said, "I think the reality is that the slippery slope will take effect, and you'll get a divide between consumers who have lost exclusivity and consumers who don't understand the value of the product."