NEW YORK — Bergdorf Goodman is going up two floors.
The retailer revealed it will relocate its executive offices and back-of-house functions to an adjacent space at 4 West 58th Street, above the Paris Theatre, to create an additional 25,000 square feet of retail space encompassing the entire eighth and ninth floors. The two new floors are expected to open by 2018.
Joshua Schulman, president of Bergdorf Goodman and NMG International, called the development “the biggest expansion to the women’s store since 1967,” when it pressured one of its tenants, The Tailored Woman, which occupied the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street, to close so that it could expand.
“The opening of the beauty level in 1999 was revolutionary,” Schulman told WWD, referring to the repositioning of the cosmetics, fragrance and treatment business to the lower level of the store.
Expanding the women’s store to the eighth and ninth floors is part of BG 20/20, a five-year plan that envisions expanding the physical store and digital presence.
“Today’s announcement is the most significant part of the plan,” Schulman said, noting that BG 20/20 began in September with the unveiling of the renovated sixth floor for Modernist Collection for contemporary designers.
A redesigned first floor is opening on Dec. 13 with a new jewelry salon with its own dedicated entrance and windows on 57th Street. The rest of the main floor will be renovated by fall 2016 into a series of salons along Fifth Avenue for luxury handbags.
Schulman declined to discuss sales but, according to sources, Bergdorf’s 150,000-square-foot women’s store, bergdorfgoodman.com and the 41,000-square-foot men’s store across Fifth Avenue, which completed a renovation last year, had revenues of about $750 million last year. Bergdorf’s is reportedly aiming for $1 billion in annual sales.
Schulman said the square footage at 4 West 58th Street offered a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to expand the footprint of the women’s store.”
“Generations of Bergdorf Goodman management thought about how it might be possible to expand the footprint of the women’s store,” he said. “This is about our commitment to this location. It’s the only one in the world. We have a very productive store. We want to keep investing in it to elevate the experience.”
Schulman declined to reveal what will be carried in the additional square footage, but said the company will identify “the fastest-growing categories and key designers. We’ll be introducing some new attractions in addition to expanding the retail space. I don’t want to be specific.
“The categories we’re most famous for include fine apparel and the very best handbags, shoes and jewelry,” he said. “At the same time, there’s also categories that are highly curated and part of the Bergdorf Goodman flair, like home on the seventh floor.
Schulman allowed that Bergdorf’s is looking at ways of bringing the outside into the store, as it’s done on the sixth floor, where an open loftlike layout features windows overlooking the Grand Army Plaza.
“Allowing for these types of vistas really creates a sense of space,” Schulman said, pointing toward his office window. “We want to share that with customers, not just a few executives. To physically see the city around you — that enhances the selling experience.”
That includes personal shoppers. Schulman wouldn’t divulge how service may be tweaked other than to say that the service model is evolving. “We’re reinventing fitting rooms and how we work with international clients. All these things are being done in conjunction with a significant investment on the digital side,” he said. “We have one store available worldwide. Investment in the icon is driving the brand.”
Manhattan is in the throes of a retail revival with new nameplates arriving and existing players buffing up their selling space to a gleaming shine.
Saks Fifth Avenue has a $250 million plan to overhaul its flagship. Nordstrom, which will open at 225 West 57th Street, between Broadway and Seventh Avenue, in 2018, is eyeing downtown for a second full-line Manhattan store. And Bergdorf’s sister chain Neiman Marcus in 2018 will open in Hudson Yards, under development on Manhattan’s far West Side.
Asked whether any brands will be off-limits to Bergdorf’s with the arrival of Neiman’s, Schulman said, “It’s an exciting time with a lot of new entrants. We know we have a unique asset with our building and clientele. There are certain areas where Neiman Marcus has stronger penetration and certain areas where Bergdorf’s is stronger. I personally am the biggest proponent of Neiman Marcus coming to Manhattan. I know that may seem counterintuitive, given my position at Bergdorf Goodman. Having these distinct luxury experiences in different parts of the city will allow Neiman Marcus Group to capture more of the luxury market.”
“Bergdorf Goodman is the crown jewel of Neiman Marcus Group, and we are committed to continuously elevating its stature as the pinnacle of luxury retail,” said Karen Katz, president and chief executive officer of Neiman Marcus Group. “Together with our investment to open Neiman Marcus at Hudson Yards in West Chelsea, our Bergdorf Goodman expansion represents our long-term commitment to serve New York City residents and visitors with two distinct and powerful luxury experiences.”
BG 20/20 has already delivered tangible results on the sixth floor. “It was the first gut renovation at Bergdorf Goodman in a decade,” Schulman said. “The next big milestone is the renovation on the main floor.”
Behind a lavender barricade on the 57th Street side of the building, “we’re creating a one-of-a-kind world for jewelry,” Schulman said, adding that 85 percent of the jewelry assortment is exclusive to the store.
“It will elevate and reposition jewelry. Across from Bulgari and Tiffany & Co. and next to Van Cleef & Arpels will be our own Place Vendôme,” Schulman said.
One criticism of the jewelry presentation has been that it’s in the center of a heavy traffic pattern, bracketed by handbag assortments on either side. “We haven’t had private viewing rooms for the highest transactions,” Schulman admitted. “Sometimes we use the executive offices to meet with clients. Now, we’ll have the proper space and presentation for spectacular jewelry or items selling at higher prices.”
The second phase of the first floor’s renovation will “align adjacencies” in handbags.
While Bergdorf’s building on Fifth Avenue is bound up in so much tradition, customers shop in a modern way across channels, Schulman said. “Bergdorf Goodman is this Petrie dish,” he added. “We remain focused on our core customer and have our eye on the customer of the future.”