By Andrea Lillo
NEW YORK–With high standards of customer service and vendor support, Bloomingdale’s is considered by many manufacturers as the perfect partner with which to launch products.
“Bloomingdale’s stands apart from other retailers in their willingness to try new concepts, like a WMF shop, as well as lesser-known designers and suppliers,” said Peter Braley, vice president of sales and marketing for the WMF/USA retail division. “It has been a while since we’ve heard the word ‘entrepreneurial,’ but Bloomingdale’s acts in an entrepreneurial fashion.”
And that makes the retailer a logical ally for launching new products. “If we have a product that’s meant for premium customers, [Bloomingdale’s] will be the first we call,” said Francesco De Flaviis, director of marketing for De’Longhi USA.
The Lattissima, an espresso maker with advanced technology for which De’Longhi partnered with Nespresso, is one such example. Bloomingdale’s was “the first store we went to with it, and they’ve been very happy with it,” De Flaviis said. “They got behind it from the chairman right down to the store manager.”
The housewares department itself has developed to incorporate “a more lifestyle feel,” said Michelle Israel, operating vice president and division merchandise manager for housewares and luggage at Bloomingdale’s. “We have made a concerted effort to integrate families of business and create a more cohesive flow to the floor that encourages multiple purchases,” she said. “The Bloomingdale’s customer comes to us for newness and innovation and continues to respond to it.”
Its objective is “to continue to grow our average unit retail and at the same time, increase the number of items per transaction,” Israel continued. “As we continue to evolve in terms of our brand strategy and pushing the bar higher in our assortment, there has been an organic growth to some of our price points.”
Within housewares, “some businesses are stronger than others,” and Israel points to decorative housewares, such as candles, flowers and frames, as one area of growth as “consumers continue their nesting pattern.” The retailer doesn’t have any private label, though about 30 percent of merchandise is Only at Bloomingdale’s, she estimated.
And manufacturers appreciate how the retailer focuses on the brands it does carry. “The Bloomingdale’s buying team is incredibly supportive of Le Creuset, which translates into extraordinary advertising support throughout the year, not just in the traditional selling seasons,” said Michael Tracey, key account manager, East, for Le Creuset of America. “They are fully supportive of maintaining the integrity of Le Creuset and Bloomingdale’s by honoring our retail pricing structure and promoting intelligently.” The cookware company launches a number of exclusive lines with Bloomingdale’s that will include a “phenomenal” addition later this year. Tracey added that the retailer is also “unique” as it has sales specialists who are fully educated on the Le Creuset product line and can talk about the benefits to customers. That service at the store level is very important, sources said.
Due to the retailer’s “huge demonstration program” for espresso makers on the floor, De’Longhi had increased its budget for in-store demos over the past year, De Flaviis said. “It’s a great way for us to connect directly with our target consumer,” he said. “Coffeemakers are clearly a focus for Bloomingdale’s, and that’s a great advantage for us because it’s helped boost our market share in the espresso-maker category in the U.S. ”
Nespresso credits Bloomingdale’s with helping introduce its brand to consumers, as well as “showcasing our innovative products with a high level of support,” said Frederic Levy, president of Nespresso North America. More recently, its partnership with the retailer expanded with the launch of the first U.S. boutique-in-a-shop at the Bloomingdale’s location in New York’s SoHo neighborhood, which Levy called “a key direction in the growth of our partnership and the culmination of a valued eight-year alliance.” And “shared corporate values” is what makes these partnerships work, he said, “a passion to deliver quality products that meet consumer needs and an excellent customer-service experience.”
Retailing “is theater; the better the performance the better the applause,” WMF’s Braley said. “But just like theater, tomorrow is another show and a new audience,” he added, and “sitting on laurels isn’t an option. In our experience with Bloomingdale’s, sometimes we push and sometimes they push, but nobody sits.”