By  on February 4, 2008

NEW YORK — The moment is now for men’s wear at Bloomingdale’s.

On Friday, Jan. 25, the department store unveiled No. 59 Metro, the revamped contemporary sportswear and premium denim department on the subway level of its sprawling flagship store.

The redo, which added nearly 6,500 square feet to the total men’s square footage in the store—there is a total of around 90,000 square feet on three levels devoted to men’s—gives the area a new energy and vibe. Ceilings in the formerly claustrophobic space have been raised, women’s large sizes and the 40 Carrots restaurant have been relocated, and loud, pulsating music immediately signals excitement.

The redo of the Metro level is just the first in a series of renovations planned for the men’s department, according to David Fisher, executive vice-president and GMM of men’s wear. In March, the space that previously housed denim will be converted into a new home for a “reinvented” tailored clothing department. That should be completed in September. About the time that is unveiled, Bloomingdale’s will begin work on its mid-level area, which will become a series of “lifestyle shops.” That is slated to be finished in January of 2009. The last phase is scheduled to be completed by June 2009 when collections will also be revamped.

“This will be the anti-classification,” Fisher said. “We will create an environment that allows a man to buy for his lifestyle by brand.”

Access among the levels, which is now a bit confusing because of the configuration of the building, will be improved when what is now an emergency exit staircase in the Metro area becomes accessible to customers. The trademark curving floors will be straightened and merchandise adjacencies will also be enhanced.

“This represents a massive investment in men’s,” Fisher said. “After 10 years of watching [women’s] accessories and ready-to-wear get all the attention, we’re finally getting our turn,” he said with a laugh.

“But, seriously, the men’s growth over the last six years has been dramatic and it’s time to invest the money.”

The performance of men’s wear at the company’s newest stores in San Francisco, San Diego and Century City, Calif., as well as Chevy Chase, Md., has been explosive, Fisher said, and there’s more to come. “The men’s growth has been incredible, but it’s only the beginning. Men’s is on an up spiral.”

But it’s not just men’s that is performing. Bloomingdale’s in general is on a roll.

Under the direction of CEO Michael Gould, the upscale division of Macy’s Inc. took a turn in direction about six years ago, abandoning its promotional department store stance and becoming the go-to location for bridge and higher-priced merchandise. “Six years ago, we saw that being a promotional department store was a short-term fix to making money and not a good long-term strategy,” Gould told DNR in an interview last week.

Before that sea change, Gould revealed, only 44 percent of its vendor mix was upscale. “Now at the end of fiscal 2007, it’s 70 percent.” And, according to sources, the store has doubled the size of its average unit sales in that same time frame. Gould declined to comment, saying only: “Touch wood, we’re doing well.”

With 40 stores in 12 states, Bloomingdale’s is expected to have sales in fiscal 2007 of around $2.6 billion. Two new stores were added to the mix last year: South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Calif., and Chevy Chase. Although Gould said there are no new stores on tap for 2008, there are “a lot of redos” in the plan, including the renovations on 59th Street, the granddaddy of the chain, with annual volume of a reported $575 million.

Gould believes the formula for Bloomingdale’s success is simple: “We’re very focused on who we want to be,” he said. “We have a clear understanding of who our customer is. We’re working in great unison—our store, marketing and visual people. We’re all reading from the same hymnal. We feel very passionate about this brand and how unique we can make it.”

Gould said there are a lot of other good retailers operating today, but Bloomingdale’s remains clear in its mission. “Six years ago we moved upscale. We said we’re not going to be Neiman Marcus, but on a door-by-door basis where we sell the same product, we do extremely well.” That said, however, Gould stressed the chain is determined to retain the “Bloomingdale’s DNA.”

Redoing the Metro men’s level is just one piece of that puzzle. “We took an area that hadn’t been touched in 25 years and put in a new young men’s department. You can just feel the energy and the buzz,” Gould said. “That’s Bloomingdale’s.”

Over two decades ago, Fisher said, the Metro level was home to Saturday’s Generation, the one-time name of the store’s young men’s area. “It was a social gathering spot for New Yorkers,” he noted.

If Bloomingdale’s executives have their way, No. 59 Metro will become a gathering spot once again. Plans call for weekly events to keep the excitement level high and an ever-changing mix of the top young, contemporary apparel, accessories and shoe brands. “No one’s going to get bored down here,” said Kevin Harter, vice-president of fashion direction. “We’re going to keep updating and changing the brands.”

Right now, customers entering from the escalators will find denim from 5EP, AG, Apolis, Armani Jeans, Blue Blood, Bread Denim, Brown Label, Chimala, Cheap Monday, Chip & Pepper, Earnest Sewn, Levi’s Capital E, Loomstate, Lucky, Royal Underground, Taverniti and William Rast, among others. Young men’s collections include Buffalo, Converse by John Varvatos, Distilled, Energie, Operations, Modern Amusement, Rvca and Triple Five Soul.

There’s even a designer component with Adam, by Adam Lippes, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Trovata, Unis, Vince, Y-3 and YMC.

“This is a headquarters for denim,” said Frank DiNapoli, vice-president and DMM of men’s designer, bridge and young men’s sportswear. “We have a shrine to 7 For All Mankind and Earnest Cut & Sew. There are lifestyle shops for Diesel and G-Star, and we’ve added Vince and J Brand.” Other new additions include Simon Miller, Joe’s Jeans, Kidrobot, Organic, Shades of Greige, Relwen and Unruly Heir, said Harter. “At least two dozen new lines will be in within the next 30 days.”

There’s a “world of sneakers,” DiNapoli said, as well as a visually appealing wall of accessories such as sunglasses, cufflinks and jewelry. And a Tee Zone offers customers a vast assortment of novelty T-shirts that “will change with trend and theme,” Harter said.

Everywhere throughout the department visuals have been enhanced and artwork has been added, all to provide a contemporary flavor. Fitting rooms have been dramatically enlarged and updated with improved lighting and color schemes.

Although Metro and the Bloomingdale’s Soho unit, which opened in 2004, are both twisted toward contemporary, Fisher said there are differences. “In its lifestyle approach to merchandising, it’s the same as Soho,” he said. “But in its openness and adjacencies, it’s three steps ahead of Soho. We have way more room here. The total men’s store in Soho is only 13,000 square feet and this merchandise is maybe 4,000.”

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