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American retailers haven’t exactly excelled at catering to Chinese customers, though with the “Year of the Horse” approaching, Bloomingdale’s is upping its game.
This story first appeared in the January 9, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“It’s the fastest-growing segment from the point of view of tourism,” Michael Gould, Bloomingdale’s chairman and chief executive officer, told WWD.
“We are doing a number of things, from dramatically increasing the number of Mandarin-speaking associates in the stores and providing the concierge services to trying to really understand those businesses that appeal to them more than others, particularly in the luxury and upscale areas. Chanel, Vuitton, Burberry, Chloé, Lauder, Gucci, Jimmy Choo — these are some of the businesses that resonate with them enormously,” Gould said.
“As we approach the Year of the Horse, we have put together a number of events in the 59th Street flagship and other Bloomingdale’s stores. It’s a question of how do we at Bloomingdale’s create an easier shopping experience for someone wanting to come here.” As Gould notes, sometimes it’s as simple as extending the right greeting at the entrance.
Bloomingdale’s will ring in the Year of the Horse starting Friday and running through Feb. 15 with a host of pop-up shops, special offers, savings and festivities. The promotion is being focused at the 59th Street flagship and the SoHo store, as well as the North Michigan and Medinah stores in Chicago and San Francisco Centre and South Coast Plaza stores in California.
Visitors will be able to test their luck with traditional Chinese red envelopes, some of which will contain bMoney cards worth $8, $88 or $888, eight being a lucky number in Chinese culture. Complimentary Forty Carrots yogurt; limited-edition Year of the Horse totes; special offers at the Clarins, Estée Lauder and La Prairie counters, and savings at certain Bloomingdale’s dining destinations and Maximilian Fur Salons will be offered, not to mention free mini cupcakes from the Magnolia Bakery at the flagship.
Among the events, a lion dance, tea tastings, demonstrations of calligraphy, paper cutting, cooking and creating dough figurines, as well as musical performances.
The pop-up shops are being stocked with exclusive fashion and home products that celebrate Chinese culture — reusable Little Horse Bags inspired by Bloomingdale’s signature brown bag, Longchamp Year of the Horse bags, Carmen Marc Valvo Couture red chinchilla jackets. There will also be an array of items from Alex and Ani, Cynthia Steffe, Diane von Furstenberg, Dogeared, Godiva, Lalique, Nike and Ray-Ban, among other brands, while Burberry, Chloé, Dior, Estée Lauder, fine jewelry, Gucci, Jimmy Choo and Salvatore Ferragamo departments will display a sprinkling of items just for the occasion.
On a yearlong basis, Bloomingdale’s tourism programs offer savings passes, gifts with purchases, hotel package delivery, personal shopper appointments and guidebooks in different languages.
There are a total of 193 Chinese-speaking associates, both Mandarin and Cantonese-speaking, through the chain.
Asked if Chinese tourists have been underserved in the U.S., Gould replied, “It’s totally untapped. It can only get bigger and better as it becomes easier over time to get a visa to the U.S.” The Obama administration, Gould noted, has worked to expedite the process and cut the waiting times for issuing visas to the Chinese, but heretofore, said Gould, “It’s been a cumbersome, lengthy process. There haven’t been as many locations in China as there needs to be” for visa applications. The Chinese, Gould said, “have great disposable income. They want to spend on luxury products.”