Byline: Vicki M. Young

NEW YORK — Tommy Hilfiger’s men’s wear will be an early casualty of a reconfiguration of Bloomingdale’s brand strategy, but Tommy’s women’s and children’s lines won’t be affected by the first round of revisions.
Michael Gould, chairman and chief executive officer of Bloomingdale’s, told WWD Friday: “We do a lot of business with Tommy. It is very profitable for what we need to do with the limited space in the stores. However, we need to differentiate ourselves and we need to use the space for other things.”
Under current plans, men’s jeanswear and sportswear will be out of all Bloomingdale’s stores except the 59th Street location, which will continue to stock Tommy’s sportswear for men. The designer’s women’s and children’s lines will remain in all Bloomingdale’s locations.
Gould explained that he and his team are in the process of reviewing various strategies to better showcase the retailer and the brands that are sold in the stores. While Bloomingdale’s has been able to differentiate itself from other department stores, it has found it more problematic to stand out from other upscale retailers, such as Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.
According to a Tommy spokeswoman: “Bloomingdale’s has always represented less than 1 percent of our business, and they continue to represent less than 1 percent as a result of these changes. As a result of a mutual decision, we both felt, far and away, the most important store is the 59th Street store, and we will be focusing exclusively on that door with men’s sportswear. We will continue to carry women’s and kids.”
A research note by Dennis Rosenberg, apparel analyst at Credit Suisse First Boston, pointed out: “Total sales of Tommy product to Bloomingdale’s 24-store chain, including product that will continue to be sold, are less than $15 million annually [about 1 percent of Tommy’s wholesale sales].” Rosenberg noted that Tommy’s women’s sportswear is sold in about 15 Bloomingdale’s doors and children’s wear in 24 doors.
Shares of the company were down 75 cents, to close at $11.05 in New York Stock Exchange trading Friday, leaving it just below the midway point between its 52-week high of $17.25 and the corresponding low of $6.31.
Gould didn’t rule out the possibility that the retailer would at some point put the men’s jeans and sportswear lines back into all Bloomingdale’s sites.
“We have had terrific success with Tommy. Regardless of how good Tommy has been for us — and Tommy has been very good — in the suburban stores its been tough to continue that and give it the space it deserves. The Tommy people feel that they should have more, and we can’t afford to give it the space it deserves,” the ceo said.
Gould said that the retailer will try to intensify the brand at the 59th Street location, and can do a “terrific” job at that site because the store can easily afford the space that’s allocated to Tommy. “The brand needs more space than we can give it,” he said.
Market sources indicated that Giorgio Armani, Polo Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss and Joseph Abboud all stood to gain in the men’s wear reshuffling, but Gould said no decision has been made yet on who will take over the vacated space. He indicated that brands from the bridge business were being considered.
David Lamer, retail analyst at Ferris, Baker Watts, noted that men’s apparel is Tommy’s core business, and cautioned that since Bloomingdale’s is removing Tommy’s men’s wear, it is possible that the retailer eventually might consider doing the same with the women’s product lines if sales suddenly turn south.
“The real challenge for Tommy in either of these scenarios will be the loss of an extremely visible department store partner,” he observed.