Byline: David MoinContributions by Janet Ozzard

NEW YORK--With the opening of a prototype DKNY shop, Bloomingdale's flagship here has put the crowning touch on a new bridge floor that features a broad selection--20 vendors, private label and exclusives--in an environment roomy enough to breathe and browse comfortably.
"It's been our strategy to intensify bridge for the last three years," Michael Gould, chairman and chief executive officer of Bloomingdale's, said during a tour of the floor last week, which will be celebrated with a party in the DKNY shop tonight.
Gould noted that bridge sportswear is growing at a faster rate than the total store business.
The department occupies about half of the third floor, or 24,000 square feet, and has 5,000 square feet more for selling space than before the renovation. It's marked throughout by wide aisles, bright lighting, bold, up-front displays, and sight lines that cut across the floor.
Chainwide, bridge sportswear at Bloomingdale's is a $65 million annual business, hitting $1,000 a foot, compared with $900 last year, sources said. The total volume figure excludes bridge labels in petites, dresses and large sizes.
Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue do about triple what Bloomingdale's does in bridge sales, yet Gould contends, "It's not just a matter of volume. The question is how much you sell profitably, maximizing selling at regular prices."
That, he said, is "a matter of creating excitement, opening the store up, making things easier to find, sending out catalogs, offering exclusives and motivating salespeople to get to know the clients. What makes this floor different is the environment. There's an ambience here."
Gould said the department is racking up double-digit gains, which will continue into 1995.
Frank Doroff, executive vice president of ready-to-wear, said business has accelerated since July, partly because of the renovations, and particular strength on the casual side of the bridge business. He declined to specify, but CK Calvin Klein, A-line, Company Ellen Tracy and DKNY jeans are among the labels said to be on a roll.
The department, said Kal Ruttenstein, senior vice president of fashion direction, "offers all the heavy hitters and several other people new to Bloomingdale's so we look distinctive from other stores. We don't want to look like every other bridge department in America."
He cited the shop adjacent to DKNY with American sportswear lines including Byron Lars, Impasse, Cynthia Steffe, Magaschoni, designed by Tracy Reese, Nik Janik and Mark Eisen.
He also cited several fall exclusives, including Ellen Tracy black wool separates, priced at $425 to $175; Anne Klein tweed suits, $550, and DKNY stretch velvet dresses, $165 to $185, offered as part of the ongoing Only at Bloomingdale's campaign. Ralph, Ralph Lauren's bridge line sold on Bloomingdale's fourth floor, did exclusive pantsuits, $650.
In August, the store distributed its first catalog where bridge was the major component. Tahari pantsuits, $450; Impasse tweed suits, $550, and Ralph's long jackets over jumpers, $440, were bestsellers. The 4,900-square-foot DKNY shop, designed by Peter Marino, is right off the escalator and the centerpiece of the floor. Sources said the shop is expected to exceed $7 million in sales its first year. Bloomingdale's has a two-year exclusive on the prototype in the New York metro area.
For DKNY, "We blew walls out, right back to the Lexington Avenue windows," Gould said. Stockrooms were dismantled to add selling space and expose the windows. "Customers see light, and it's inviting," Gould said. "DKNY has so many points of view," said Donna Karan. "You're able to see it in a show but we've never been able to get it out to the consumer. It's not about a customer, it's about different types of customers. It goes from a scuba dress to jeans and a T-shirt, but it's all designed, and to see that breadth needs an enormous amount of space."
"I wanted it to feel like an artist's loft. Light and environment are the most important elements. We broke through the walls so the boutique is looking down on the street. Everything is done oversized. The large conflict is how much merchandise to have on the floors. My feeling is, I did not want to have that much merchandise on the floors. To see the clothes jammed on a rack is very intimidating."
Karan said she's tired of clothes displayed on hangers, or flat against a wall, so she installed 45 mannequins in the shop.
"It looks like a runway," she said.
The boutique includes shoes, handbags, hosiery, belts and hats, as well as what Karan calls "collateral material," such as DKNY water.
Other major shops on the floor include Ellen Tracy, with 3,600 square feet; Anne Klein II, 2,200 square feet, and CK, 2,400 square feet. Adrienne Vittadini will be enlarged after Christmas. Apparently, bridge collections have matured.
"They're no longer just rehashes of better or designer lines," Ruttenstein said. "The fashion looks great, and it's what women don't have in their wardrobes."

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