By  on September 10, 2008

Bloomingdale’s is taking its SoHo concept on the road.

On Wednesday, locations for two new stores, modeled after the SoHo unit in New York, were revealed: Santa Monica Place in Santa Monica, Calif., and Georgetown Park in the Georgetown section of Washington.

Bloomingdale’s in SoHo is a scaled-down version of the department store featuring tightly edited assortments of contemporary men’s and women’s sportswear and accessories, denim and cosmetics. The original, opened in April 2004 at 504 Broadway, is the smallest store in the chain, representing a sliver of total sales and selling space and a slice of the assortment at the 59th Street flagship. But practically since day one, Bloomingdale’s executives have talked up the store, boasting it was performing beyond expectations. Sources said the 80,000-square-foot, six-level store generates about $70 million in sales.

Having earned the confidence of parent Macy’s Inc., Bloomingdale’s has the funding to bring the SoHo vision to other cities.

“I’ve always said SoHo was a defining moment in the history of Bloomingdale’s,” said Michael Gould, chairman and chief executive officer. “SoHo proves that a so-called department store can think outside the box.”

He characterized business in SoHo as “just enormous. It’s balanced, men’s is fantastic, accessories outstanding, contemporary women’s outstanding, cosmetics off the chart.” Among the women’s and men’s brands carried in SoHo are Diane von Furstenberg, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Rock & Republic, Milly, Theory, Nudie, Engineered Garments, Paul Smith, Y-3, John Varvatos, Junya Watanabe, Helmut Lang, Kitsune and Moncler. Among the cosmetic brands are Sisley, Jo Malone, Kiehl’s, Creme de la Mer and Giorgio Armani.

Gould said the company remains on the hunt for additional locations for SoHo concept stores. “We need at least 80,000 or 90,000 square feet,” he said. Generally, Bloomingdale’s full-line branches are more than 200,000 square feet, he said.

“More important are the psychographics of the area,” Gould added. “The psychographics of Santa Monica are as close to SoHo as you are going to get. It’s an unreal opportunity. If there is a SoHo Los Angeles, it’s Santa Monica.”

The SoHo concept plays to audiences with a younger, contemporary mind-set, and tourists, but not necessarily an age group. Gould said a SoHo-type Bloomingdale’s is suitable for mall or street locations.

Asked why it took so long to begin rolling out the SoHo concept, Gould replied, “Sometimes the stars have to get aligned the right way. In these very difficult times, for the corporation to commit basically four stores in the last couple of months [including a unit in Phoenix for 2010] shows the confidence it has in the Bloomingdale’s brand.”

Macy’s Inc. has also been consumed by its 2005 purchase of May Department Stores Co. and the ensuing integration work.

In Santa Monica, Bloomingdale’s will open a 105,000-square-foot, two-level store by August 2010, or earlier, and take over the space occupied by Macy’s. The Macy’s unit will close in February.

The 30-year-old Santa Monica Place, developed by the Macerich Co., is undergoing a $250 million redevelopment and remerchandising geared to integrate the center into the fabric of the coastal community, with architecture and amenities that take advantage of Pacific Ocean views. The roof has been removed to convert the center from an enclosed to open-air format.

Getting Bloomingdale’s SoHo is “a major coup. This sets the center apart from the herd,” said Randy Brant, Macerich’s executive vice president of real estate. “Our plans include a total remodel, inside and out, including a new Nordstrom that was already announced. The only building that did not have plans for a new exterior or interior remodel was Macy’s,” which is giving its space up to Bloomingdale’s.

“Upscale, fashion-forward and global luxury retailers have a very strong interest in being part of our new development,” Brant said. “We are either in negotiations or have leases signed with many. I can’t announce them yet.”

The grand opening is set for late fall 2009, before Bloomingdale’s or Nordstrom stores start operating.

In Santa Monica Place, “We are taking two levels of the three-level building, stripping it down to the bare bones and re-creating it,” said Jack Hruska, Bloomingdale’s executive vice president of creative services and store design. “It won’t have the flavor of the 1860s building [that houses the SoHo unit]. It will be closer to a Southern California aesthetic. You will know it’s a Bloomingdale’s store, but with more of a Southern California beach feeling. The SoHo concept has to be adapted to the community. If we can make a couple of them work, that will give us more incentive to look for additional opportunities in densely populated urban areas.”

Bloomingdale’s in Georgetown will reflect the area’s town house brick architecture and will be closer in character to SoHo than Santa Monica, Hruska said.

The plan in Georgetown is to build an 82,000-square-foot, three-level store. The opening is anticipated for August 2011. The store will be in Georgetown Park, which will be totally redesigned as a high-end, urban fashion destination for metro Washington.

Bloomingdale’s also said it will open in fall 2011 a 150,000-square-foot, three-level store at Westfield Valley Fair in San Jose-Santa Clara, Calif., which is being expanded as well. However, this store will not be modeled after SoHo, and will instead sell upscale apparel and home merchandise with a focus on contemporary designer, bridge and luxury brands, as do most other Bloomingdale’s units.

The Bloomingdale’s expansion intensifies the competition against Nordstrom. Nordstrom Inc. previously revealed intentions to open in Santa Monica Place and already has a store in Westfield Valley Fair.

There is speculation that Nordstrom might look to bring designer shop-in-shops to its Santa Monica store, going head-to-head against Bloomingdale’s.

However, a spokesman said, “It is too early to say if our Santa Monica Place store will be a designer-focus store for us, but it will absolutely be an outstanding Nordstrom store. I should also say that we think it is great that we’ll be at the center along with Bloomingdale’s, and Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s will be joining us at Valley Fair. They are great competitors and we do best when we’re surrounded by great competition. We think it benefits the customer and will make both of these centers a better destination.”

Bloomingdale’s is also expected to soon unveil its first overseas store, which could be in Dubai. Gould declined to comment on that.

As if the 40-unit chain didn’t have enough on its plate, a complete renovation of the main floor of the 59th Street flagship is under way.

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