Bloomingdale’s – A Tradition Of Greatness

Bloomingdale’s – A Tradition Of Greatness

Many New Yorker’s love Bloomingdale’s for its lively presence on the Upper East Side. My first recollection was when a local bank advertised to the “Saturday Generation” that Bloomingdale’s had created; New York’s East Side has never again been the same. The store became known for its innovative, truly extraordinary promotions and events. There were elephants in the Bloomingdale’s store; another time, there were designers from France visiting the store. Over the years, it was a time for merchandise and marketing excitement that captured the attention of the whole city.

There have certainly been other luxury stores in the city – but none with the flair of Bloomingdale’s. In honor of the brand’s 150th anniversary, this article focuses on the leaders of its past 50 + years that have made Bloomingdale’s so great a store.

I start with the time of Marvin Traub. Marvin was an impresario at Bloomingdale’s. He conceived of, and then personally conducted, many of the events that were newsmakers during his tenure. Traub climbed the executive ranks to become president of the company in 1969 and then CEO in 1979. He added new stores on the East Coast, Florida, and Texas. But his major efforts were most visible in the flagship store where special merchandising events from England, France, China, India, and many other exotic countries were held. While branch stores participated in these country promotions, the focus was on the flagship store on 59th Street and Lexington Ave. These grand shows did not make much money since merchandise often was overbought by enthusiastic store buyers. But they made a big impression on customers. Traub retired in 1991.

It was up to Michael Gould to take the retail chain to its next level and change the mood. A passionate merchant, he raised the standards of the company. He was equally passionate about serving the customer and his energy electrified the associates who followed his lead to feature wanted brands and top designers. Now it was the foreign visitors who came to Bloomingdale’s to look for the latest designs. Bloomingdale’s became a showcase for new designs and innovation with worldwide appeal. Gould was chairman for 23 years, from 1991 to 2014.

Let me turn back in time. Lawrence Lachman preceded Traub and was chairman from 1969 to 1978. He joined Bloomingdale’s in 1950 as treasurer and served in several executive positions before being named Chief Executive in 1964. He was a key leader in the transformation of Bloomingdale’s from a local New York specialty store into a retail chain with stores throughout the Northeast. Bloomingdale’s grew from 6 stores in New York to 15 stores from Boston to Washington.

He oversaw the revamping of the Bloomingdale’s flagship store, turning it from just another department store into a destination for the shopper looking for something odd or new. Importantly, he helped the company compete with the shops on Fifth Avenue, the heart of New York retailing at the time.

Now, the brand is under the leadership of Tony Spring. Spring has been CEO of Bloomingdale’s since Michael Gould retired in February 2014. He had been president and chief operating officer since 2008. He began his Bloomingdale’s career in 1987 as an executive trainee in the White Plains, N.Y store. Over the next eight years, he took on increasing responsibility before being promoted to executive vice president for home furnishings. In 1998, Spring promoted to executive vice president of marketing. Further promotions and greater responsibilities followed until he became Chief Operating Officer overseeing Bloomingdale’s stores, marketing, creative services, finance, operations, and restaurants. Now as Chief executive, he has responsibility for all facets of the Bloomingdale’s brand including merchandising, marketing, operations, stores and online.

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Tony Spring operates with the weight of his predecessor chief executives on his shoulders. Bloomingdale’s today is a national institution with 36 stores from New City to San Francisco; it also has partnerships in Kuwait and two stores in Dubai in addition to 25 off-price clearance centers. Spring has revamped the 59th Street flagship store, moving whole classifications of merchandise, emphasizing shoes with a huge new department, and creating a store that focuses on today’s young customers. He feels that the brand has buzz. There is a personality in the Bloomingdale’s brand. People are curious about the fashion office and the fashion trends that Bloomingdale’s thinks are important.

Business in the last few years had been rumored to be about $3 billion. With a heightened emphasis on digital sales, Bloomingdale’s now is likely to report about $3.5 Billion for the current fiscal year. When asked by David Moin of WWD to compared himself and his predecessors, Spring replied:

“I am a big believer in the balance of arts and science. There is a tremendous amount to be learned, and gained, by the use of analysis, AI, and machine learning. None of that replaces judgement, taste, a merchant’s passion, and determination to distort something. It’s the combination of the two that creates the most successful retail of the future and there has been at points in history where people in finance ran companies or a sole merchant ran a company. I don’t consider myself a merchant prince, a marketing prince, a finance prince. I am a generalist who hires and promotes, and helps create synergies with highly talented specialists, who take an enterprise mindset to build and energize a magnificent brand. I am a humble leader. I don’t think humility means you lack competence or confidence. It means you have regard for the people you are working with and are more interested in seeing the brand be successful over time over anything that I might personally accomplish. I do not compare myself with other leaders. I don’t think I would measure up. I compare myself to how the company is doing, how my people are doing, how the brand is doing. Those are the things I am measuring myself against.”

Bloomingdale’s is celebrating its 150th Anniversary from now until the holiday season. It opened its doors as the Great East Side Bazaar in 1872. Queen Elizabeth stopped by in 1976 as the only store she chose to visit on her American Bicentennial tour. Andy Warhol dubbed Bloomingdale’s “a new kind of museum for the 80’s”. The store introduced “little knowns” like Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, and Marc Jacobs.

Clearly, Bloomingdale’s has always been a store like no other. Now they are having a star-studded gala, designer pop-ups, incredible events, and an expansive, immersive digital experience. There is even a 150th Anniversary Collection with over 300 limited edition exclusives. It is a celebration like no other.

Congratulations to Tony Spring. The celebration is for a national institution that you have made younger, better, and more exciting.

Bloomingdale’s is celebrating its 150th Anniversary from now until the holiday season. It opened its doors as the Great East Side Bazaar in 1872. Queen Elizabeth stopped by in 1976 as the only store she chose to visit on her American Bicentennial tour. Andy Warhol dubbed Bloomingdale’s, “a new kind of museum for the 80’s. The store introduced “little knowns” like Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, and Marc Jacobs.

Clearly, Bloomingdale’s has always been a store like no other. Now they are having a star-studded gala, designer pop-ups, incredible events, and an expansive, immersive digital experience. There is even a 150th Anniversary Collection with over 300 limited edition exclusives. It is a celebration like no other.

POSTSCRIPT: Congratulations to Tony Spring. The celebration is for a national institution that you have made younger, better, and more exciting.

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