Retail Traffic


Oh, to be a Size 2, twentysomething and a trust-fund baby.

Then I could shop regularly at Bloomingdale's new ultra-hip SoHo store in downtown Manhattan — an eclectic mix of the old and the new in a prototype that with some tweaking may be taken to other cities.

The six-level store, which opened April 24, seeks to revive Bloomie's imaging as a trendsetting retailer — an image that has deteriorated over the years as the chain began to carry the same brands and offer the same deep discounts as competitors.

Its design alone sets it apart from other department stores. The chain's owner, Federated Department Stores Inc., took over a landmarked 1862 factory building on Broadway that until recently housed a Canal Jeans store. It retained the floor to ceiling windows — providing a flood of natural light — a red brick wall discovered during the renovation and wood plank flooring, while adding glass and leather and wood trim throughout.

Each floor looks unique. Take the graffiti rugs in the basement men's section, for example. About the only recognizable Bloomingdale's touches are the black-and-white marble checkerboard floor in the cosmetics section and the familiar sans-serif type identifying departments and rest rooms.

The clothes, too, differentiate the downtown store from the original in midtown. Lots of shrink-wrap, midriff-baring tops, short skirts, denim casualwear and Juicy Couture are displayed in a space one-fifth the size of the flagship store.

The fifth floor, for example, puts an accent on up-and-coming designers, including Derek Lam and Lela Rose, not found on 59th Street. “It's a lab to test new designers,” said Jack Hruska, senior vice president, store design and visual merchandising, during a pre-opening tour. Cosmetic brands unique to this store include Prada and Jo Malone.

Bloomingdale's is still determining how to make the best use of a penthouse space. “We're considering a hip hair styling business, a spa or wellness center or another restaurant,” said Hruska. Café 504, the store's address on Broadway, offers light fare. Bloom Restaurant is a more upscale eatery. Both are compact.

“We found that many shoppers who live below 14th Street didn't want to make the trip uptown,” said Hruska. What's more, he added, a number of young designers prefer the trendy clientele who live below 14th Street to uptown grown-ups. So the SoHo store was born.

The prices vary, but aren't for the budget-minded. I saw a Zac Posen jacket for $1,300 and, at the other end of the spectrum, a Miss Sixty swimsuit for $89. No grand opening sales here.

Chief Executive Michael Gould (left) said that while the SoHo store was created primarily to extend the Bloomingdale's brand to hip downtown shoppers, the concept could, if successful, be tried in other cities.

“It might work in, say, Chicago, South Beach or even St. Louis,” he said. “As long as one is economical, it could be successful elsewhere.”


Location: SoHo, Broadway between Spring and Broome streets

Size: 90,000 sq. ft.

Opened: April 24

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