By  on September 21, 2007

NEW YORK — Bloomingdale's shoppers no longer have to trek to two different departments to buy dresses and coats, thanks to a remodeled 10,000-square-foot fifth-floor space.

Tadashi Shoji, David Meister, Allen Schwartz, George Simonton and Ricky Freeman were among the designers set to celebrate the flagship opening at a cocktail party Thursday night. Later this fall, Carmen Marc Valvo and Marc Bouwer will make in-store appearances in the area that has been spruced up to the tune of "millions," according to Donna Wolff, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for coats and dresses.

Given the influence celebrities' red-carpet appearances have on the retailer's dress business, it is fitting the new department is sleek with black tie-clad mannequins interspersed throughout the floor.

"Our gal sees it on TV, sees it on the Internet, sees it in print and she's got to have it," Wolff said. "Our business is really driven by popular culture and what she sees in magazines like In Style, Us Weekly and People."

To that end, metallics and color are expected to be key dress trends, she said. The fact that Kate Walsh and Ali Larter wore red to Sunday's Emmy awards should make red dresses more appealing to Bloomingdale's shoppers, but color in general was seen on many other celebrities at the event, she said. "These award shows have almost become a do's and don'ts manual for our gal."

With that strategy in mind, Bloomingdale's is introducing Jay Godfrey dresses, a collection that has been seen on Eva Mendes, Jennifer Lopez and Jaime Pressly. Bruyna is another label that is being unveiled in the department. Shoppers stepping off the fifth-floor escalators near the store's Lexington Avenue side will find dresses from Carmen Marc Valvo, Marc Bouwer Glamit, Badgley Mischka Platinum, Kay Unger, Chetta B, Nicole Miller, Tadashi and A.B.S. by Allen Schwartz.

A recent study determined that three times as many people use the escalators near Lexington Avenue as opposed to the ones near Third Avenue, where dresses used to be housed on the third floor. Contemporary dresses have about 1,400 square feet on the store's second floor. The fifth-floor dresses area now occupies an additional 4,300 square feet. Coats comprise 4,200 square feet on that floor. Combined, dresses and coats have around 10,000 square feet in total in the store, compared with 8,500 square feet a year ago, Wolff said.Sales of outerwear and dresses are about one to one at this time of year, but in December, coats should outsell dresses two-and-a-half to one, she said. The department has more perimeter space to give shoppers more room to peruse. "We're long past the season of the dress. It's the year of the dress and perhaps will be the decade of the dress. It's become the standard uniform," Wolff said.

However, as the thermometer drops, outerwear will be given more floor space on a week-by-week basis. Burberry, The North Face, Andrew Marc, Marc New York, Mackage, DKNY, Laundry, George Simonton, Chaiken, Helene Berman, Bogner and Moncler are among the resources. August sales were strong but waned a bit during the first two weeks of this month as the days warmed up, Wolff said.

Bloomingdale's is banking on a strong coat season since fourth-quarter weather forecasts are calling for cooler temperatures than a year ago, she said. Color once again is expected to be a driving force, especially in regard to ski coats and more technical styles, Wolff said. Belted styles and anything with button details are other important trends.

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