By  on May 7, 2007

NEW YORK — The men's team at Bloomingdale's has been quite busy.

Last week, they were in Costa Mesa, Calif., overseeing the opening of the company's newest store, a 291,000-square-foot, three-level unit in the acclaimed South Coast Plaza mall. And when they return to the East Coast, they'll tackle major renovation projects of the men's store at the 59th Street flagship as well as the Chestnut Hill, Mass., unit.

The work on 59th Street will begin within the next month, while the Massachusetts store will be revamped beginning on May 14.

But last week, the focus was on South Coast Plaza.

Reached by phone prior to the store opening Friday, David Fisher, executive vice-president and GMM of men's for the upscale retailer, said he was satisfied with the way the men's department turned out

"It's not one of my biggest men's stores—it's only around 26,000 or 28,000 square feet. A good-size men's store is 35,000 to 40,000 square feet, but this one still makes the statement I wanted it to make. I would have liked better pads for some of the brands, but I'm still pleased." The department, which features large columns covered in dark wood with black accents, is located on the main floor near the restaurants and has its own entrance from the parking lot, Fisher noted.

It highlights classic merchandise on one side, designer merchandise in the center, and contemporary/denim on the other side. Among the classic brands offered are Canali, Corneliani, Z Zegna and Polo, Fisher said, with John Varvatos, Michael Kors, Elie Tahari, Theory, Zegna Sport, Burberry and Hugo Boss in the designer area. In the Lab, or contemporary department, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Number (N)ine and Gilded Age will be offered. In premium denim, Joe's Jeans, 7 For All Mankind, Diesel, G-Star and Prps are among the brands highlighted.

In furnishings, shoppers will find Armani Collezioni and Corneliani shirts along with neckwear from Michael Kors and Valentino. Bags, small leather goods, sunglasses and jewelry by Simon Carter, Armani, Mosley Tribes, Paul Smith and Burberry are also in the mix.

Fisher said that for fall an Armani Collezioni shop will be added along with Martin Margiela.

Kevin Harter, vice-president of fashion direction for men, home and Young World, said, "The mix is great. It really shows our whole balance between modern and classic. It's a really strong presentation."

Because the store will be facing some stiff competition—the 2.8-million-square-foot South Coast Plaza is one of the country's largest and most productive shopping centers, with annual sales of $1.6 billion—Bloomingdale's has striven to offer brands that do not have wide distribution in the market, such as Hartford, a contemporary brand, Ballantyne and C.P. Company.

The mix is "very California," Harter added, "and very upscale at the same time. There's a lot of competition in this mall; everyone is here."

Located about 40 miles south of Los Angeles, South Coast Plaza houses a Nordstrom, separate Macy's Men's, Women's and Home stores, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Barneys New York. "This mall does nearly as much business as the entire downtown San Francisco," Fisher said.

Because of its location, Fisher said the mix is "a little less tailored and a little more casual" than other units. "It's more surfy, young, boardshorty, for Southern California." He stressed, however, "We didn't tweak down classic."

The South Coast Plaza store is the second major Bloomingdale's unit to open in California in the past six months. In September, the company debuted a 300,000-square-foot flagship in San Francisco. Sources expect the new Costa Mesa store to generate sales of $80 million to $90 million, just shy of the goal for San Francisco.

The company also operates a "small footprint" store in nearby Fashion Island mall in Newport Beach, Fisher said, about seven miles away from South Coast Plaza. "There may be some trade-off of business," he said, "but there will still be some people who prefer the quiet of Newport Beach."

A former Robinsons-May unit, the new store "looks as Bloomingdale's as Bloomingdale's can look," Fisher said. The company worked to set the store apart by installing a facade that glows at night and two four-star restaurants that will open this fall.

The new Bloomingdale's is the chain's 38th unit and its eighth in California. The store's charity gala last Wednesday benefitted the Orange County Performing Arts Center. To introduce the store to the public, more than 200 events and designer in-store appearances are planned.

Now that South Coast Plaza is up and running, Fisher can turn his attention to the other men's renovations.

First up is Chestnut Hill. Last fall, the company opened a separate women's store in the Mall at Chestnut Hill shopping center and converted an existing unit to men's and children's merchandise only. Fisher said the store has "weird, odd-shaped aisles, and we are going in to straighten them out and create better sight lines. Since the new women's store opened, he noted, "business has been up dramatically."

A larger project will kick off next month on 59th Street. "We just finished the design for the metro level," Fisher said. That level, which is accessible from the subway, is currently plus-size women's wear but will be converted to men's. "We're totally redoing it and we're going to open a staircase to the first floor. We'll put contemporary and our jeans business there on the metro level.

The lower level tailored clothing department will be "gutted," he added, and will be converted to "lifestyle shops." Vendors such as Armani, Corneliani, Zegna and Polo will all have new homes. "It'll be like you're walking into their boutiques on Madison Avenue," Fisher said.

The renovation project on 59th Street is expected to take about a year.

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