By  on August 10, 2005

NEW YORK — In the rapidly changing but challenged bridge business, Bloomingdale's is determined to set the pace.

Bridge, since its inception in the mid-Eighties, has ballooned with more players, and its offerings, particularly in the last year, have broadened to casual, younger styles and a contemporary feel sometimes imbued with designer-level quality.

Still, retailers and vendors say sales remain spotty at many stores, especially in those labels that haven't seized the moment. To boost the category and distinguish its own presentation, Bloomingdale's has unfurled a chain-wide renovation program and marketing strategy.

Bloomingdale's has unfurled a chain-wide renovation program and marketing strategy.

One of its first moves is a symbolic one to underscore its goal of reshaping the category: Bloomingdale's has dropped the "bridge" moniker and redesignated the floor as "The New View."

Equally important, Bloomingdale's 59th Street flagship has integrated a handful of major designer collections — including Ralph Lauren Black Label, Moschino Cheap and Chic and Burberry — in with traditional bridge offerings in a further indication of how the category is changing. They moved down from the fourth floor to the new third floor.

"It's a business we are really attacking," Frank Doroff, senior executive vice president and general merchandise manager of ready-to-wear at Bloomingdale's, said of the category, where sources estimate the retailer has sales of about $150 million. "We felt the industry, in terms of bridge, was getting old, tired and boring, and we wanted to make it more luxurious and modern. The connotation of bridge is somewhat passé. We're calling it The New View, and not just at the flagship. It's throughout the chain."

Among the 33 locations that make up the $2 billion Bloomingdale's chain, units on North Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Century City in Los Angeles and in Boca Raton, Fla., already have installed departments for The New View, while the King of Prussia, Pa.; White Plains, N.Y., and Short Hills, N.J., branches will be renovated this fall. More bridge departments will be overhauled in the spring and, eventually, all of Bloomingdale's branches will be transformed to The New View, Doroff said.

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