Accessories: The Finishing Touches

The first category shoppers see when they enter Bloomingdale’s from Lexington Avenue, accessories is considered a crucial element in the chain’s retail mix.

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Accessories are the first category shoppers see when they enter Bloomingdale’s from Lexington Avenue, and just like most major retailers, they cover a significant area on the main floor alongside fragrance and cosmetics. No wonder, then, that the statement they make at Bloomingdale’s reflects on the entire store, and is considered a crucial element in the chain’s retail mix.

This story first appeared in the December 5, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Enter Brooke Jaffe, Bloomingdale’s fashion director of shoes, handbags, fashion accessories, intimate apparel and hosiery. Jaffe joined the store a little more than four years ago, after starting her career as an accessories editor, first at Vogue, and then at In Style magazine. She likens her accessories approach to that of an editor, culling the vast field of accessories and working with buyers to secure the kind of merchandise that the store is known for.

“We are about fashion, we are about fun and we embrace everything from a contemporary customer to a luxury-oriented customer, but with fashion always as the focal point,” Jaffe said.

A little more than a year ago, the flagship completed the transformation of its Lexington Avenue entry area into a boulevard of luxury in-store accessories boutiques, featuring Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, Chloé, Fendi, Ferragamo, Prada, Miu Miu, Marc Jacobs and Christian Dior.

“It’s incredibly important in our flagship to have a representation of the designer handbag world,” Jaffe said. “It’s the first impression when you walk in off Lexington.”

She said the luxury end of the business was developing well, and that, “We continue to add new resources at the designer level in accessories. It’s a vital piece of our vision and brand, and something we are very proud of.”

Move a few steps up — quite literally — and shoppers find jewelry from the likes of Links of London, Alexis Bittar, Michele Watches and Michael Kors. The area is also home to jewelry from the private label Aqua brand — a significant business that allows the retailer to register trends and inspirations from the runway with a mix of classic and fashion-forward pieces.

To find the accessories best suited to the Bloomingdale’s customer, Jaffe travels to Milan and Paris during the collections season — and she works closely with other members of the fashion office, including vice president of fashion direction Stephanie Solomon, to create trend reports that are dispatched to every department at the retailer.

Chairman and chief executive officer Michael Gould is closely involved in the process.

“Every season, we show him everything we are buying in every category — shoes, handbags, jewelry,” Jaffe said. “He sees all the sku’s laid out. It is definitely great and validating when he is as excited as we are about the merchandise.”

Since arriving at the store, Jaffe pointed out that she has witnessed the rise of tech accessories like covers for the iPhone and iPad — an entirely new and increasingly important category at the store.

The addition of accessories outposts on the second and third floors in early November have been a more recent development. They serve as small pop-up shops for customers looking for the quick accessories fix with their apparel purchases. As of now, the display of merchandise is slated to change once a month, but that could soon be different — especially if the chief has his way.

Jaffe explained, “Mr. Gould already said he wishes it could change every week.”

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