NEW YORK — Against a backdrop of increasing competition, Bloomingdale’s is expanding its fledgling outlet chain.

This story first appeared in the April 26, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The company on Monday said three Bloomingdale’s outlets will open in the fall, including a 25,000-square-foot unit at Miromar Outlets in Estero, Fla., a 24,000-square-foot outlet at Wrentham Village Premium Outlets in Wrentham, Mass. and a 24,000-square-foot unit at Woodfield Village Green in Schaumburg, Ill.

Bloomingdale’s last fall unveiled its first four outlet stores, which were considered something of a test, in Potomac Mills in Woodbridge, Va., Bergen Town Center in Paramus, N.J., Dolphin Outlet Center in Miami and Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise, Fla.

“Our first four outlet stores have helped us to learn this business and refine our merchandising and in-store presentation,” said Michael Gould, chairman and chief executive officer of Bloomingdale’s. “We’re learning about the flow of the goods, and what one would call the promotional cadence. We’ve seen no cannibalization of our [full-price] stores. These three new locations will help us to extend the geographic reach of Bloomingdale’s outlets and introduce the concept to new customers. Mr. [Terry] Lundgren, chairman and ceo of Macy’s Inc., made a comment that we will have more in the future. We know that [the outlet business] is one of the biggest opportunities we have.”

Based on customer response and opportunities for additional learning, the company said it hopes to open additional Bloomingdale’s outlets in 2012 and beyond.

Bloomingdale’s outlets offer a range of apparel and accessories, including women’s ready-to-wear, men’s, children’s, women’s shoes, fashion accessories, jewelry, handbags and intimate apparel. The vast majority of merchandise is manufactured specifically for the Bloomingdale’s outlets, while about 20 percent consists of clearance inventory from full-price stores.

Less susceptible to the vagaries of the economy, outlets have become one of retail’s healthier formats. Not surprisingly, the outlet space has been getting more crowded. Neiman Marcus last year launched its Last Call Studio format, which stocks direct-purchase product and is not to be confused with Last Call Neiman Marcus, where clearance merchandise is sold. Nordstrom opened 17 Rack outlets in 2010, bringing its total to 86 units, and said it plans to open 17 Racks this year.

“We’re learning that there are certain businesses we should be pushing harder than others,” Gould said. “We feel really good about [the outlets].”

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