from hooped skirts to high-end fashion

For 150 years, Bloomingdale’s has been a New York City landmark. It is the only national high-end department store that reaches across the US from the east coast to the west.

Founded in 1872 by businessmen Joseph B and Lyman G Bloomingdale, the retailer celebrates its 150th anniversary in September. A division of Macy’s, it has moved far beyond its NYC roots, operating 33 Bloomingdale’s stores and 21 Bloomingdale’s outlets from California and Connecticut to Maryland and Massachusetts, along with one Bloomie’s boutique concept store in Virginia. Its headquarters and flagship store has been famously located at 59th Street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan since 1886.

Bloomingdale’s sells women’s, men’s and children’s clothing and accessories, jewellery, and furniture and homeware. Brands sold range from Adidas to luxury labels Bottega Veneta, Celine and Dior.

As well as being a behemoth of US retail, Bloomingdale’s has offered British brands the chance to access US consumers over the years: Whistles, Hobbs, Reiss and Kurt Geiger all sell via its shop floors and website.

Its 150th birthday celebrations start in September with shopping experiences, exclusive luxury product collaborations, pop-ups and events.

A 150th birthday limited edition collection of fashion and lifestyle products, such as an update on the retailer’s “Big Brown Bag”, will be launched in collaboration with 100 brand partners – including the likes of Gucci, Balenciaga, Prada and Valentino – bearing design details inspired by Bloomingdale’s heritage, such as the Manhattan flagship’s black-and-white checkered floors.

Tony Spring, chairman and CEO, tells Drapers about the birthday celebrations, and how Bloomingdale’s will delve into its archive to inform its future.

Bloomingdale’s New York

What lessons has Bloomingdale’s learned from 150 years in business?

Bloomingdale’s president and CEO Tony Spring

The last 150 years have been an incredible ride. Bloomingdale’s has launched the careers of world-class designers [including Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Donna Karen], while also igniting trends, and creating opportunities for discovery. We have set the stage for retail and fashion but learned the importance of adapting to the changing landscape and ever-changing consumer along the way.

As people look to shop online, we have put a lot of thought around customer journeys based on channel, providing 360 [degree] experiences for customers whether they come in store for convenience or expertise, or shop online. We’ve continuously looked for ways to engage our customers and make them the number one priority, giving them a unique and personalised shopping experience [such as digital stylists, kerbside collection and same-day delivery].

On the other side, Bloomingdale’s is redefining what it means to be a multi-category retailer. We have been a trusted resource for customers as well as brands over the last 150 years. We are able to offer a unique value proposition for our 3,500 brands, partners and vendors, and also for our daily customers. There are not many other places in the world where people can purchase both a luxury mattress and a designer handbag.

How did the pandemic change Bloomingdale’s?

As a multi-category retailer, Bloomingdale’s has always had great insight into our customer’s overall lifestyle, and that became even more of an asset over the past few years. Throughout the challenges of the past years, we were able to recognise and meet shifts in consumer demand quickly. For example, we saw our home categories such as outdoor living trending and respond quickly to meet that need. Now, as people begin traveling again, we can provide them with the products they would need, from resortwear to luggage.

How will new partnerships and innovations shape the company as it enters its next era later this year?

Bloomingdale’s has remained relevant for a century and half – from the hoop skirt [the first item sold in the Blomingdale brothers first store: Ladies’ Notions Shop in New York’s Lower East Side] in the late 1800s to today. As we look to our future, we are also looking to the future of retail. A

We continue to see strong demand in luxury, and we are committed to expanding our offerings to meet this demand. In store and online, we are bringing more luxury brands to our digital site. [In the last two years, Bloomingdale’s has launched online menswear from Zegna, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Saint Laurent and Versace, and womenswear from Versace, Giambattista Valli, Dolce & Gabbanna and Balenciaga].

Meanwhile, we’re making significant renovations to suit luxury assortments at the flagship store in New York City, including the launch of several new luxury shops and adding new and renovated boutiques in the arcade [including Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga and Prada men’s. The store offers the largest selection of men’s designer shoes in the city.]

Bloomingdale’s men’s shoe floor

What wider future plans do you have for Bloomingdale’s?

We have invested heavily in in-store experiences as customers need a reason to choose to leave their homes rather than shop online. “Retail as theatre” is part of Bloomingdale’s DNA, and we’re offering even more innovative experiences, like our Carousel [pop-up concept driven by culturally relevant themes, such as Netflix historic drama Bridgerton, and which has been guest curated by British designer Stella McCartney, among others], which spotlights launches and collaborations, brings newness and connects to cultural moments.

We’re also always looking to improve the online shopping experience. We have digital stylists that inform customers before purchase, enhanced product detail pages with features that bring the product to life.

We also recently launched Bloomingdale’s On Screen, which has since evolved into an online and in-store hybrid event format that not only increases engagement, but continues to drive sales [examples include styling, fitness and cooking sessions recorded with store staff].

What is the future strategy for Bloomingdale’s?

Our vision is to remain relevant by always listening to our customers by learning, innovating and understanding their needs, and then exceeding their expectations. We will continue to welcome brands into our portfolio that align well with our customers [continuing the focus on luxury], and find ways to ensure the shopping experience at Bloomingdale’s is one that makes people want to come back time and time again.

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