Way back in the last century, a time many consider to be ‘the good old days’, most leading brands sold their fine merchandise predominantly through wholesale. That gave them a wide distribution and usually national representation.

Fast forward to the 21st century – ecom has taken off and then the pandemic hit – a real one-two punch to the retail industry. We now see brands selling direct-to-consumers and directly to major accounts like chain stores in a big way. It has become a new world. Many smaller retailers have gone out of business and big store chains have loved the opportunity to buy directly from the brands. New relationships, even friendships, have now emerged between these players.

As a result, merchandising strategies for long-standing retailers have had to change. Products are often displayed prominently to attract attention and motivate brand-driven purchases. Particularly in fragrances and cosmetics, there is more excitement created by these new, closer partnerships, and brands are getting greater emphasis. With new cosmetics companies demanding space, the installations are often eye-catching. Many new companies often have special events at in stores in order to befriend potential customers.

Some brands have shifted to revenue sharing by establishing concessions in retail partner stores. No longer do brands receive bulk orders at the beginning of the season, but rather they maintain a curated assortment in stores throughout the season and share the revenues with the store. In France, Galeries Lafayette has many of these concessions.

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Bloomingdale’s is an example of a retailer who has successfully adapted its merchandising relationships with its brands and vendors over the years. That’s why we see it celebrating its 150th year in business (it was founded back in 1872 ). It has had close relationships with leading companies like Ralph Lauren, Armani, Tory Burch, and Chanel. Its management team works together with these brands to ensure the strongest possible brand expression for the customer. While Bloomingdale’s also has concessions within its array of merchandise offers, they are not as widely used as in France.

I had an opportunity to speak to Tony Spring, CEO of Bloomingdale’s, who told me that the 150th Anniversary Celebration will start in September and run for the rest of the year. There will be fashion shows, pop-ups, a special catalogue, and many exciting events. There will also be 200 special items featured during the holiday celebration.

Management of Bloomingdale’s has revamped the entire store. The new store layout places more emphasis on women’s footwear and its design is on the forefront of setting the pace for fashion. At the same time, it has a fine home area which attracts the New York loyalists.

Postscript: Congratulations to Bloomingdale’s on its 150th Anniversary. The store has gone though many phases over its impressive history. I still remember when a former management rushed strawberries from the French countryside (fraises du bois) as well as all the extravagant shows with merchandise from India, England, China, France and other countries displayed throughout the store. It is a unique institution that has changed – better to say it has evolved in step with the changing world around it – under leading CEO’s including Mike Gould, Marvin Traub, Lawrence Lachman, and now Tony Spring. These leaders have built partnerships with care. Brands that are represented in the company’s merchandise assortment have undergone careful scrutiny to be chosen. The Saturday generation lives on.

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