BLOOMINGDALE’S: DICTATING ITS OWN STYLE

Byline: David Moin

WAYNE, N.J. — With its “grand court” for cosmetics, distinctively designed bridge, better and contemporary departments and more daring use of lighting and mannequins, Bloomingdale’s here asserts a strong identity of its own — like never before seen in any of the chain’s branches.
And the most distinguishing feature: Ralph, Donna and Calvin are not so in-your-face.
The new look of Bloomingdale’s — an attempt to cut down on the clutter and make shopping easier and fun — will be unveiled April 11, when two branches open, at the Willowbrook Mall here and at Bridgewater Commons, in Bridgewater, N.J., two converted Stern’s locations. It will also be evident at Bloomingdale’s in Orlando, opening next October, and future stores.
“This is not just some other suburban store. This is a headquarters store,” said Michael Gould, Bloomingdale’s chairman and chief executive officer, during a “hard hat” tour of the Willowbrook unit last Thursday.
“This represents the next generation in store design for us,” added Jack Hruska, senior vice president of store design and visual merchandising.
Typically in a department store, sportswear is confusing to shop, with one category bleeding into the next. The store’s personality gets submerged by the proliferation of vendor shops controlling the real estate.
But Bloomingdale’s new look is inspired by the 59th Street flagship’s designer floor, where there is a balance. Designers can project their own identities, but under the umbrella of a Bloomingdale’s signature look.
The expansion in New Jersey advances the look of Bloomingdale’s branches. “The big, big change is that we’ve created environments,” Hruska said. “There are far fewer vendor installations. We use to do 80 in a store. There are about 20 in this store.” In older branches, “everything used to bleed into one another. The departments couldn’t hold up on their own.”
In Bridgewater, the departments are more defined, from the rich, clubby look of men’s wear, to the plaid carpeting and camel-colored wood of Sutton better sportswear, and the black waxed oak wood and black marble floors that frame bridge sportswear.
There’s also the checkerboard B-way cosmetics aisle, and perhaps Bloomingdale’s most distinctive department, YES — Young East Sider — for contemporary assortments, which has big bright YES columns and no vendor environments. It’s monochromatic, with lights that change colors to change the look of the area and large back-lit graphics. Bloomingdale’s created the store design working the firm of Tucci, Segrette & Rosen.
The merchandise mix is skewed to such contemporary lines as BCBG, Leon Max, Laundry, Theory, Juicy Couture, Diesel and Seven, and to bridge lines including Ellen Tracy, Dana Buchman, Anne Klein, Ralph Lauren Sport (which becomes Blue for fall), DKNY, Eileen Fisher and Tahari.
Gould said the new Bloomingdale’s store seizes a niche that cuts into “the bottom part of Neiman’s and the top part of Macy’s.” Macy’s operates in Willowbrook, but Neiman’s does not.
The three-level, 273,000-square-foot store is Bloomingdale’s fifth-largest branch, enabling certain areas to be quite spacious. Fine jewelry is about 40 percent larger than it is at other branches, and the cosmetics grand court, with 14,000 square feet compared to the average 9,500-square-foot cosmetics area in a branch, runs 260 feet all the way from the mall entrance to the entrance from the parking lot.
The store has wider aisles and sells all categories of apparel, accessories, cosmetics and home, with the exception of furniture.
The site was occupied by Stern’s, a former division of Federated Department Stores that has been converted into Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s stores.
With the two upcoming New Jersey stores, Bloomingdale’s will operate 25 units, including two others in New Jersey: at the Mall at Short Hills and at Riverside Square in Hackensack.
As reported, this is Bloomingdale’s biggest expansion year ever. Besides New Jersey and Orlando, Bloomingdale’s home stores are opening in Las Vegas and Chicago in November. With the store count headed to 28, Bloomingdale’s should break the $2 billion barrier within two years, after posting about $1.75 billion last year. The New Jersey volume, with the two new stores, could double in three years, from the current $160 million, sources said.
The two-level, 160,000-square-foot Bridgewater Commons store will sell apparel and accessories, but no home products. Bloomingdale’s plans to have a separate home store up and operating in the Bridgewater mall by November 2003.

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