Susan Marasco and Nelson Mui

The Millennial customer is a primary focus for Bloomingdale’s, Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor stores, and the way they gather and digest information is dramatically changing the retail landscape.

In a roundtable discussion at the WWD Fashion Forum in Las Vegas on Sunday, Susan Marasco, fashion director of women’s contemporary for Bloomingdale’s, was joined by Nelson Mui, men’s fashion director for the Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor divisions of Hudson’s Bay Co. And while on the surface the two retailers don’t seem to overlap much, both kept returning to the question of how to attract this alluring younger customer.

“The Millennial customer is our strongest growth area,” said Marasco, a 20-year Bloomingdale’s veteran. She said the store reaches this shopper in a variety of ways including traditional catalogs as well as social media.

The increased use of social media channels has become so important today that it has changed the way retailers do their jobs.

“She can get whatever she wants with a click,” Marasco said, “so we have to give her what she can’t get anywhere else.”

That also impacts the men’s market. Mui, whose background includes publishing and wholesale, said today is “the most exciting time for men’s wear.” He pointed to a “level of fashion literacy that won’t be reversed.”

He said thanks to the proliferation of fashion on the Web, “everybody is a fashion director today. Everybody sees the trends. The information is conveyed in real time.”

So it has become the retailers’ job to “edit down” the information that “bombards” the consumer today and distill the trends into manageable pieces.

“We have our antenna up at all times,” Marasco said, “and use our fashion voice to tell her what she wants.”

What the customer wants right now is contemporary women’s merchandise, activewear and denim, she said.

Because the women’s spring market doesn’t open until September, Marasco said the Las Vegas shows will be her first look at the season. The Bloomingdale’s team was planning to shop shows in search of newness in terms of vendors, product and trend.

If the resort season is an indicator, she said, “the consumer loves color,” adding that dresses, lace blouses and wide-leg pants are also expected to be hot buttons for spring.

In men’s, Mui said he was walking the shows to find “validation” of the trends he had seen throughout the men’s runway shows this summer, which included relaxed tailoring, ath-leisure, accessories and footwear. “Men are the new women,” he said, drawing a laugh from the audience.

For both retailers, online is also a major focus. In fact, Mui called its growth “explosive.” But he stressed that brick-and-mortar is still essential and the most effective strategy is to use omnichannel initiatives so customers are served whether they’re shopping in an actual store or on their computer or phone.

“Just make sure the fashion message is consistent,” he said.

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