By Nancy Meyer
NEW YORK–Bloomingdale’s is polishing its furniture.
The upmarket fashion retailer is moving even more into the contemporary realm in furniture and home decor to keep pace with its clientele. This is being reflected this season in the mix, and will be demonstrated in a full statement in the 59th Street Manhattan flagship, which is undergoing a total renovation expected to be complete next January. The new look will be more open and flow better between style segment, which will lean heavily on modern and contemporary, officials said.
“We’ve taken our lead from our customers as they push us to be more updated and contemporary,” said Jim Coia, vice president and general merchandise manager of furniture and mattresses.
To keep its promise of being “like no other store in the world,” Bloomingdale’s aims to have “unique and exclusive product” in every family of business, Coia told HFN.
“Our customers always look to Bloomingdale’s for fashion first, then quality and value,” Coia said. “We are working as hard as we can so that the home store fashion is in line with the rest of the store.”
In furniture, that means having the latest from top designers, such as Ralph Lauren, Barbara Barry and Thomas O’Brien.
Another key to Bloomingdale’s success is its coordinated merchandising efforts across category lines.
This strategy was pushed even further in Bloomingdale’s Chevy Chase, Md., store that opened in October last year.
There, the home department takes less of a vendor shop approach and more of a total home strategy, as furniture co-mingles with tabletop and bedding in cross-merchandised presentations that resemble the format of Crate & Barrel. Also, in that store, the home department has just two themes—casual/contemporary and updated traditional.
Where lifestyle presentations are possible, Bloomingdale’s has put a greater emphasis on home decor, a great add-on purchase that reinforces its fashion cachet.
The home decor segment is a bright one for the retailer, which has grown its accessories over the past two years.
“We have an exciting fashion accessories business [in 19 stores] that supports the different designers, and point of views that we carry in our assortment,” Coia said. “This is a good business for us.”
But while the top designers are essential to Bloomingdale’s luxury positioning, the retailer’s private brands are important, too.
“Private-label merchandise has always been important to Bloomingdale’s mix of furniture and home decor,” Coia said. “It continues to offer our customers unique and different product that helps differentiate us from our competition.”
In fact, Bloomingdale’s buyers have been known to be very hands-on in the product development process in some categories, and merchandise managers are involved in every aspect of developing a program, according to vendors.
“I would say that Bloomingdale’s has been the most successful bedding operation in the country over the past 15 years,” said Michael Hammer, president of Shifman Mattresses, a longtime Bloomingdale’s vendor. Shifman sells four different mattress categories to Bloomingdale’s. “The merchants, beginning with Mike Gould and Joe Laneve, have really supported the program to the point where it’s expanded six times since the early 1990s in mattresses,” he said.
In terms of buyers pushing vendors to do more and better, Hammer said that after Shifman launched an ultra-premium line called Reviens, made of an isotonic foam (memory foam) at Bloomingdale’s, “The buyers challenged us to do better. They always do that, and for that they should get a lot of credit for the success of our programs with them,” Shifman said. “So two years ago, we introduced Beau Reve, an ultra-deluxe premium line priced at $10,000. It’s done fabulously well. Even now, we’re hearing from them about going up still another notch from Beau Reve,” Shifman said.
In other segments, such as upholstery, leather furniture and case goods, Bloomingdale’s aims to customize a look to fit the consumer’s personal tastes. A wide array of special-order fabrics, leathers and finishes is available.
“We stand for product that offers our customers the ability to tailor product needs that fit into their personal lifestyle,” Coia said.
While the past two years have been incredibly rough on the furniture industry, Coia said Bloomingdale’s executives are optimistic.
“The whole housing and credit crisis has created a challenge for everyone. However, we see a great opportunity for growth in the markets we are currently in,” he said.
And despite price increases throughout the home decor market, Coia isn’t worried.
“Price increases have always been a part of our business. This really has not had an effect on our ability to develop product and meet our customers’ needs,” he said.
Recognizing that today’s consumer wants to shop online, Bloomingdale’s is also polishing its furniture’s online presentation and shopability.
“We’re in the very early stages in terms of having the whole home store online,” Coia said. “Furniture and mattresses are online but mostly for information purposes only.” — David Gill contributed to this report.