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For 150 years, Bloomingdale’s has been a New York City landmark. It is the only high-end national department store that crosses the United States from the east coast to the west.

Founded in 1872 by businessmen Joseph B and Lyman G Bloomingdale’s, the retailer celebrates its 150e birthday in September. A division of Macy’s, it has gone far beyond its New York roots, operating 33 Bloomingdale’s stores and 21 Bloomingdale’s outlets from California and Connecticut to Maryland and Massachusetts, as well as a Bloomie’s concept store in Virginia. Its headquarters and flagship store have been located at 59th Street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan since 1886.

Bloomingdale’s sells women’s, men’s and children’s clothing and accessories, jewelry, furniture and homewares. Brands sold range from Adidas to luxury labels Bottega Veneta, Celine and Dior.

As well as being a retail giant in the United States, Bloomingdale’s has provided British brands with access to American consumers over the years: Whistles, Hobbs, Reiss and Kurt Geiger all sell through its stores and its website.

Its 150th anniversary celebrations begin in September with shopping experiences, exclusive luxury product collaborations, pop-ups and events.

A 150e limited-edition anniversary collection of fashion and lifestyle products, such as an update to the retailer’s “Big Brown Bag”, will be launched in collaboration with 100 partner brands – including Gucci, Balenciaga, Prada and Valentino – wearing details designs inspired by Bloomingdale’s heritage, like the black-and-white checkerboard floors of Manhattan’s flagship.

Tony Spring, President and CEO, tells Drapers about the anniversary celebrations and how Bloomingdale’s will be digging through its archives to inform its future.

Bloomingdale’s New York

What lessons has Bloomingdale’s learned from 150 years in business?

Tony Spring, Chairman and CEO of Bloomingdale’s

The past 150 years have been an incredible journey. Bloomingdale’s launched the careers of world-class designers [including Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Donna Karen], while triggering trends and creating opportunities for discovery. We set the stage for retail and fashion, but learned the importance of adapting to the changing landscape and ever-changing consumers.

As people look to shop online, we’ve put a lot of thought into customer journeys by channel, providing 360 [degree] experiences for customers, whether they come in-store for convenience or expertise, or shop online. We have continually looked for ways to engage our customers and make them our number one priority, providing them with a unique and personalized shopping experience. [such as digital stylists, kerbside collection and same-day delivery].

On the other side, Bloomingdale’s is redefining what it means to be a multi-category retailer. We have been a trusted resource for customers as well as brands for the past 150 years. We are able to offer a unique value proposition for our 3,500 brands, partners and suppliers, but also for our everyday customers. There aren’t many other places in the world where people can buy both a luxury mattress and a designer handbag.

How has the pandemic changed Bloomingdale’s?

As a multi-category retailer, Bloomingdale’s has always had an excellent understanding of the general lifestyle of our customers, and this has become even more of an asset over the past few years. Throughout the challenges of the past few years, we have been able to recognize and respond quickly to changes in consumer demand. For example, we saw our home categories such as trending outdoor living and reacted quickly to meet this need. Now that people are starting to travel again, we can provide them with the products they need, from resort clothing to luggage.

How will new partnerships and innovations shape the business as it enters its next era later this year?

Bloomingdale’s has remained relevant for a century and a half – from the hoop skirt [the first item sold in the Blomingdale brothers first store: Ladies’ Notions Shop in New York’s Lower East Side] from the late 1800s to today. As we look to our future, we also look to the future of retail. A

We continue to see strong demand in luxury and are committed to expanding our offerings to meet this demand. In-store and online, we’re bringing more luxury brands to our digital site. [In the last two years, Bloomingdale’s has launched online menswear from Zegna, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Saint Laurent and Versace, and womenswear from Versace, Giambattista Valli, Dolce & Gabbanna and Balenciaga].

Meanwhile, we are carrying out extensive renovations to accommodate the luxury assortments in the New York flagship store, including the launch of several new luxury stores and the addition of new and renovated stores in the arcade. [including Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga and Prada men’s. The store offers the largest selection of men’s designer shoes in the city.]

Bloomingdale’s Men’s Shoe Floor

What broader future plans do you have for Bloomingdale’s?

We’ve invested heavily in in-store experiences because customers need a reason to choose to leave home rather than buy online. “Retail as theatre” is part of Bloomingdale’s DNA, and we offer even more innovative experiences, like our Carousel [pop-up concept driven by culturally relevant themes, such as Netflix historic drama Bridgerton, and which has been guest curated by British designer Stella McCartney, among others]which highlights launches and collaborations, brings novelty and connects to cultural moments.

We are also always looking to improve the online shopping experience. We have digital stylists who educate customers before purchase, enhanced product detail pages with features that bring the product to life.

We also recently launched Bloomingdale’s On Screen, which has since evolved into a hybrid online and in-store event format that not only increases engagement, but continues to drive sales. [examples include styling, fitness and cooking sessions recorded with store staff].

What is Bloomingdale’s future strategy?

Our vision is to stay relevant by always listening to our customers by learning, innovating and understanding their needs, then exceeding their expectations. We will continue to welcome brands into our portfolio that are a good fit for our customers [continuing the focus on luxury]and finding ways to make the shopping experience at Bloomingdale’s make people want to come back again and again.

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