By  on November 17, 2004

Bloomingdale’s SoHo 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 its impact has been huge, according to Bloomingdale’s chairman and chief executive officer Michael Gould.

“It has opened our minds,” stated Gould. “It has already made an indelible impression on our organization and, even more significantly, on the consumer and resource marketplace.”

He’s striking back at the critics — and there have been plenty of them — who for decades have accused department stores and their merchants of lacking creativity, merchandising sameness from door to door, providing poor service and little ambience and heading for extinction.

Gould makes it clear that he sees things differently. “That we could develop a successful new format reflects the versatility and power that resides in our brand and in our people,” he contended in his speech. “Such power is unusual and is something we value immensely. It gives us great confidence to think about a future with new formats that adapt Bloomingdale’s to local market opportunities.”

Gould also sees the SoHo store as vindication of a three-year-old, chainwide strategy focusing on more upscale brands, less widely distributed labels, crisper editing and reduced clutter. Bloomingdale’s stores have taken away about 70 percent of their signs, and key item displays no longer block aisles or other presentations.

“What you see in SoHo is very clearly a Bloomingdale’s store, but smaller, more edited and focused than any other store we have. It reflects a change in how we define our brand,” Gould said.

The 79,000-square-foot, six-level branch is weighted to contemporary and bridge lines in women’s and men’s, advanced denims, accessories and cosmetics, along with some private label and gifts. It’s housed in a 19th-century former brick factory with cast iron columns, exposed pipes and tin ceilings juxtaposed against high tech plasma screens, theatrical spotlighting, escalators and restored oak floors that still creak under customers’ feet. Located at 504 Broadway, the site last housed Canal Jeans Co. and reopened as Bloomingdale’s last April.

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