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B IS FOR BLOOMINGDALES
BY: VIVI ASSOR
COVER ART: JULIANNA LUKACS
The fashion industry is widely known for being a dynamic, fast-paced, and competitive market; this holds true for both designers and the various stores who compete for consumer sales and loyalty. It is very common to see clothing stores at the top of the market suddenly plummet to bankruptcy in just a few short years, which is why the long-lasting reign of Bloomingdales within the American retail industry is quite revolutionary.
Founded by Joseph and Lyman Bloomingdale, Bloomingdale’s Department Store opened in 1872 with humble beginnings on 56th St and Third Avenue in the ever-growing city of Manhattan. Unlike most fashion retailers in the late 1800s, the Bloomingdale brothers specialized in more than just one type of garment and sold a variety of European styles, the beginning of what would become a “department store.” 150 years later, Bloomingdales has 56 stores across the US and an online global presence in over 91 countries, continuing to be trend setters within the fashion industry and financially superior than their competitors with an annual revenue equal to $1.072 billion and a market share of 5.1% as of 2020.
With the tumultuous nature of the fashion/retail industry, many wonder how Bloomingdales has been able to stay in business and remain competitive within the market for nearly two decades. The answer lies within their marketing campaigns and advertising skills that have continuously made Bloomingdales more than just a department store but rather an entire high-fashion experience available to any American consumer. In the early 1900s, as the NYC transportation system grew, Bloomingdale's catchy slogan, “All cars transfer to Bloomingdales,” became a reality as more consumers fell in love with their unique boutiques-within- a-store approach. When print ads were no longer enough to capture consumers' attention, Bloomingdales became the stage for gala events and fashion shows in the 1940s, equipped with music, lighting and sophistication.
Among all their marketing campaigns, the most successful is undoubtedly the famous “Brown Bag.” Introduced in 1973 by Marvin Traub, the Brown Bag is one of the most remarkable marketing vehicles in the industry due to its sheer simplicity. Despite Traub leaving the store’s name off the bag completely—a radical innovation at the time that is still rarely seen today—the Brown Bag has become an iconic symbol within the fashion industry, as well as an efficient marketing tool that allows customers to identify and connect with the Bloomingdale's brand within seconds. All of these strategic marketing choices gave Bloomingdales the clout it needed to attract the top designers within the industry; Halston was one of the first to join in the late 60s, followed by Ralph Lauren in ‘67 who obtained his first breakthrough into the industry through his Bloomingdales boutique. Bloomingdales also gave early designers such as Calvin Klein and Perry Ellis a platform to succeed, developing strong relationships with the industry’s top suppliers.
Bloomingdale's strategic and innovative marketing techniques, coupled with their continuous dedication to working with influential and current designers to ensure their stores don’t fall behind the trends, has allowed their department stores to succeed despite the hardships of the retail industry. Bloomingdales has triumphantly become an icon in the fashion industry and a staple to every American consumer across the country, and will continue to be for many years to come.