CAROLEE IN THE ROUND
Byline: Wendy Hessen
NEW YORK — When Bloomingdale’s renovated arcade and main-floor accessories space finally opened two weeks ago, one major player was missing: Carolee. The company’s newly designed, and prominently spaced, boutique was still under wraps, but with its unveiling Wednesday, it seems to be making up for lost time.
Industry sources say the jewelry firm registers nearly $1.5 million in annual retail sales at the 59th Street flagship and is one of the store’s most lucrative main-floor lines. The new space is almost one-third larger — at 450 square feet — than its previous location, which could help volume there top the $2 million mark.
That, along with the Carolee history of commitment to a high level of marketing and sales support, may account for securing such a prime spot along Bloomingdale’s B’Way. The boutique, which is shaped like two concentric circles, actually extends somewhat into the main aisle opposite cosmetics. Its design was the result of nine months of work between the company and Bloomingdale’s store design team, according to Karen O’Brien, Carolee’s vice president of marketing.
Carolee Friedlander, chief executive officer, described the space as a kiosk, with greatly enhanced vision, lighting and serviceability.
“We’re trying to take jewelry to a new standard and make it entertaining and very pleasing visually, as well as effective,” said Friedlander. “Customers will be able to touch a lot of the merchandise. We wanted total vision, and great lighting, like hundreds of halogen twinkling bulbs from a center core space.”
And the way it works may change the way costume and bridge jewelry is sold from now on.
There are no backs to the counters, allowing customers to view merchandise from inside or outside the circle. The sales staff — of three to six people exclusively for Carolee — roam the area freely, rather than standing behind a counter, O’Brien explained during a tour of the boutique.
For the opening, the outer ring cases hold new fashion looks for fall, the line of fine jewelry styles, called “outrageous faux,” and a large section devoted to the Carolee pin collection. All stock is held in drawers below the display cases. There are also two full-length mirrors to view the full effect of a look.
Nearly one-third of the outer circle is taken up by a spot called the Pearl Bar, easily recognizable by its glass countertop completely filled with thousands of the same glass pearls used to make Carolee jewelry. There, customers can pull up a chair and mirror to try on a wide variety of pearl and bridal jewelry that is arrayed before them on pegs that hold necklaces, earrings and bracelets.
The inside circle holds more merchandise, including the sterling silver collection of jewelry and fashion watches, and gray pearl line. The cash register and wrap desk are hidden inside the inner circle.
Overhead, there are two rear projection screens that are visible from across the floor. They will be used to show the company’s longstanding educational and instructive videos. But for the first showing, Carolee has created an additional image piece, something Friedlander said was important for the Bloomingdale’s flagship.
“It was the right thing for this environment,” she said. “We needed something very fast and strong that quickly identified our image and products. That’s what belongs on B’way — it’s theater.”
Since opening for customers on Wednesday, the shop has registered double-digit gains over the planned increase for the larger location, according to Francine Klein, Bloomingdale’s general merchandise manager for accessories.
“We’re very pleased with the initial reaction,” said Klein. “The circular nature of the cases is very inviting, customers seem to feel very comfortable with the self-service aspect of the boutique.
They’ve really been gravitating to the pearl bar, but pins and gray pearls and the outrageous faux line have also done well.”
The new concept will be exclusive to Bloomingdale’s, at least for the moment. Friedlander said it could work with very few stores, especially given the necessary high maintenance and staff levels. Other possible locations are in London, Tokyo and maybe Los Angeles, said O’Brien.