Retailers need to think outside the box to keep their customers engaged.
This story first appeared in the March 30, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
That was the idea behind Bloomingdale’s decision to install pop-up shops for PHM Saints Peres, the influential Paris-based multibrand men’s store owned by designer Pierre-Henri Mattout.
The pop-ups opened about three weeks ago at Bloomingdale’s 59th Street flagship and its store at the Beverly Center in Los Angeles. So far the results have exceeded expectations.
“This was a moment for us,” said Kevin Harter, vice president of fashion direction for men’s and home for Bloomingdale’s. He said retail today is very challenging and “we need to surprise and delight the customer. I thought this would be the way to [do it, by giving] some new brands and some we had carried in the past, but in a really great edited assortment.”
While the idea is a bit unorthodox, it didn’t take much convincing for Harter’s higher-ups to give it the green light. “Fashion directors are like lobbyists — we have to go around and sell not only our stores to the vendors, but ideas like this within our own institutions,” Harter said.
The night the shop launched, some 300 men showed up to check it out. “It felt like Fashion’s Night Out, but they were buying,” Harter said. “And it was really refreshing. I turned to my boss and said, ‘Retail is not dead, it’s alive — if you give them a reason to come to the store.'”
One reason for the success, they believe, was the ability to replicate Mattout’s Paris shop. “We did the buy together, and 95 percent of the brand selection [from Paris] is represented in the New York and Los Angeles stores,” Mattout said. “It’s slightly different, but basically has the same look and feel as the Paris flagship.”
Mattout refers to his store as a “men’s wear concept shop” that combines his “passion for Japanese avant garde and streetwear and the outdoor world.” It’s heavily skewed to sneakers, from brands such as Pierre Hardy, Lanvin, Common Project, Y3 and others, but also offers apparel from the likes of Comme des Garçons, Junya Watanabe, Visvim and Sunspel.
Many brands were added to the Bloomingdale’s assortment and have been successful at attracting a new customer. “I’d be lying if I said it was perfect,” Harter said. “But we brought in a new customer, sell-throughs have been amazing and it’s had this great halo effect. The categories that it sits next to — the casual sneakers, the contemporary designer businesses — have really benefited from this collaboration.”
Harter wouldn’t reveal the names of the brands that are performing the best, but said, “There are a couple of brands we did not carry in the past that had the best sell-throughs, so it’s giving the customer something they haven’t seen before. And probably the worst sell-through was a brand we’ve carried for years. So it’s been interesting and telling, and a couple of these brands we’ll carry going forward.”
Bloomingdale’s installed the pop-ups at its two best markets as well as online and promoted the collaboration through social media, e-mail blasts and in its men’s catalogue. Mattout also was hands-on, tweaking the shop to ensure its consistency with his Paris store. “He’s not only a designer, he’s a shopkeeper,” Harter said. After he was done, it “reminded me even more of his store and he made it more exciting.”
Harter admitted that perhaps the biggest challenge was educating the sales staff about the new brands, so the store made a big educational push to get associates “behind it.”
The collaboration has been a learning experience for both parties. Mattout said it was “very interesting to see how the concept [worked] in the American market. I’m glad it’s been successful and glad it translates so well in the department store environment,” he said. It gives him the confidence to perhaps open his own store in either New York or L.A.
For Harter, the success of the pop-up means there will be others in the future.
“Going forward, we’re just going to have to do more and more of these collaborations to bring a new customer — and even our existing customer — into the store,” he said. “It’s a reason to jump in a cab and come to a brick-and-mortar.”