For decades, Bloomingdale’s contemplated entering the Pacific Northwest and never took the leap.
That all changes Thursday, when a scaled-down version of Bloomingdale’s, called Bloomie’s, opens at the University Village lifestyle center, which is about five miles north of downtown Seattle. It’s the third Bloomie’s to open; the first opened in August 2021 in the Mosaic District shopping center in Fairfax, Va., and the second opened in November 2022 in the Old Orchard shopping center in Skokie, Ill.
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“The Bloomie’s idea was conceived in the throes of the pandemic,” Charles Anderson, Bloomingdale’s executive vice president and director of stores, told WWD. “We needed a growth vehicle that maximizes relevancy.”
“Bloomie’s fits squarely into the core of the evolving Bloomingdale’s strategy, elevating our customer experience, providing more ways to engage, digitally and physically, and is a testament to our belief in the physical stores. It’s about relevancy, enhancing our experience and elevating our brand expression as an upscale contemporary brand while unlocking a path to nationwide profitable growth,” added Rachel Abeles, Bloomingdale’s senior vice president of customer and revenue growth.
Bloomie’s focuses on casual and contemporary styles and convenience. There’s flexibility in the store design, allowing the company to grow or shrink presentations of brands and trends depending on sales patterns.
The two-level Bloomie’s in University Village has a space for rotating pop-ups and trend presentations. The assortment is being curated to local preferences both in brand mix and product categories. Women’s, men’s, beauty, skin care, fragrances, accessories, home and giftables are offered, and contemporary labels are a strong focus. However, given the limited space, intimate apparel, kids’, furniture, food and designer labels are not part of the mix.
“Women’s apparel will be a primary focus for this store, making up the majority of our first-floor footprint,” Abeles said. “We will lead with impactful statements of our private brands. Women’s denim, a key strength for Bloomingdale’s, will show up in a meaningful way with presentations from brands including Veronica Beard, L’Agence, Mother, Rag & Bone and Paige. We are also bringing Sandro and Maje into our store, giving these brands their first-ever brick-and-mortar presence in Seattle. The remainder of our ready-to-wear assortment will comprise a curated selection of coats and cashmere, casual activewear, and key collections, including Theory, Vince and James Perse.
“The other space on our main floor will be dedicated to a curated beauty boutique, bringing the best of what we created in Bloomie’s Old Orchard and adapting it for a smaller footprint. We will lean into our strength in luxury fragrances with key presentations from Maison Francis Kurkdjian, Creed and Byredo,” she continued. The boutique also displays skin care and color cosmetics, including Sisley, Augustinus Bader and Dior.
Menswear on the second floor has a similar approach to women’s with leading denim and complementary sportswear from brands like Frame, AG, and Rag & Bone, while the remainder of the floor has classic and contemporary collections.
“We protected the resources important to our core customers and added new brands,” said Abeles.
It’s likely that another couple of Bloomie’s will be introduced elsewhere in the country, to further Bloomingdale’s understanding on the viability of the format and the possibility of a big rollout across the country down the road. Bloomingdale’s does not operate any stores in Texas and Arizona, two major markets that pose some potential.
Aside from Bloomie’s, Macy’s Inc. has two other “off-mall” formats, a scaled down version of Macy’s, simply called Macy’s now after being previously named Market at Macy’s, and Bloomingdale’s The Outlet. Last month, Macy’s disclosed it is targeting an additional 30 openings of small-format Macy’s through 2025. Already, there are 11 small-format Macy’s locations operating, with another set to open this month, meaning the store count on the smaller Macy’s format could increase to 42 in 2025.
At one time Bloomingdale’s operated separate, freestanding home stores, but no longer does. Executives said no additional specialized formats are planned.
Anderson makes a strong case for why his company opted for a Bloomie’s in the Seattle market rather than a full-line Bloomingdale’s department store. “Seattle has been on our short list. We have considered every option out there, but this is a market where we had to be very thoughtful relative to the dominance of a very formidable competitor,” he said, referring to the Seattle-based Nordstrom Inc., which operates some of its highest-volume stores in the region.
“One hundred fifty thousand square feet never felt right to us” for the Seattle market, Anderson added. The competitive landscape and demographics of the market, he said, “required a different approach. It forced us to disrupt ourselves, to figure out how do we create something that feels differentiated for the customer and is more easily navigated. It felt that going head-to-head with a formidable competitor, on their turf, potentially ends up being redundant for the customer. This pursuit of a different format felt right. It feels like it is going to be additive.”
Bloomie’s, as part of the Macy’s Inc. off-mall strategy, Abeles explained, has three pillars, or approaches in site determination. First, it’s about “densifying” its presence in a market where Macy’s Inc. already operates a department store and sees an opportunity to fill in with another store to better serve customers and capture new ones. Bloomie’s in the Mosaic District center reflects that “fill-in” approach since it supports the two existing Bloomingdale’s in the region, at Tysons Corner Center in Tysons Corner, Va., and in Wisconsin Place in Chevy Chase, Md.
The second pillar of the off-mall strategy is about filling a void when Macy’s Inc. closes a department store, but there are still loyal customers in the market, as in the case of Old Orchard, where a Bloomingdale’s department store closed and was replaced by Bloomie’s. With that scenario, “customers weren’t quite sure what to expect. We did lose some, for sure, but the Bloomie’s environment is modern and the assortment is vastly improved,” Anderson said.
The third pillar is about entering a market previously untapped by Macy’s Inc., as in the case of Bloomie’s at University Village.
Among the three Bloomie’s, the University Village unit is the smallest. The Old Orchard unit is the largest at 50,000 square feet, while Bloomie’s in the Mosaic District is 22,000 square feet.
Bloomingdale’s, a division of Macy’s Inc., has 34 department stores, 20 outlets, two overseas licensed department stores in Dubai and Kuwait, and an e-commerce website, as well as the three Bloomie’s. By being omnichannel, Bloomingdale’s provides what Abeles said is a high level of experience, relevancy and optionality.
Well before the University Village openings, “We knew we had an engaged customer base in the market shopping with us online, and a portion experienced us in some of our big stores,” said Abeles. “Bloomie’s is about giving them more, in a box. You will see a highly contemporary assortment leaning to casual and catering to Seattle sensibility.”
Asked how Bloomie’s is performing so far, Anderson said, “We are pleased with the business acceleration and trajectory.” He also said that it could take up to five Bloomie’s to best gauge whether an aggressive rollout would be warranted, though he added, “I wouldn’t say three plus another two explicitly,” would give enough of a reading on the format’s performance.
“The storyline of Bloomingdale’s is bigger than our physical footprint, but we still have to be very selective in prioritizing markets,” Anderson said. It’s not only about demographics. Psychographics also have to be considered, he said.
“This is a concept we believe in,” Abeles added. From each Bloomie’s opening come learnings and ways to iterate on the next Bloomie’s, she said. Colors, materials, fixtures and merchandise could be adapted with each opening though “the core codes remain the same,” door-to-door, Abeles said. “It takes time and research. It’s not only about four walls. It’s about the way our brand shows up in each of these markets.”
The Bloomie’s name isn’t actually new — a small airport Bloomie’s shop operated briefly in the late ’80s at John F. Kennedy International Airport — and decades ago, there was Bloomie’s women’s novelty underwear, which caught on for awhile. To this day, some people refer to Bloomingdale’s as Bloomie’s, like a nickname.
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