How Bloomingdales modernized men, cosmetics and the home with Dan Leppo – WWD
The story has now become legend.
In 1967, when Ralph Lauren was making his debut, he convinced the team at Bloomingdale’s to buy his fledgling line of men’s wide ties. The relationship that began that day has continued and today the designer’s brand is one of the retailer’s top sellers.
But that was just one of the menswear milestones the department store has amassed in its 150-year history.
“The partnership with Ralph – from the introduction of ties to the first store in America – is the most talked about and the foundation of our very special relationship with Ralph Lauren Corp., but we also launched Canali in the United States and countless other brands,” said Dan Leppo, executive vice president and general manager of men’s, kids’, cosmetics and home merchandise. “We were also the first to use sports stars in our marketing”, and the Saturday’s Generation department was considered a model for young men’s merchandising in its heyday in the 70s.
But the store is not resting on its laurels and continues to develop the men’s offer at the dawn of the next century.
“As we look to the future,” Leppo said, “what excites me most is the continued evolution of menswear.”
The store just finished renovating the 59th Street flagship men’s store, where the team was able to “reconceptualize” the floors “to match the evolution of men’s fashion,” he said.
This includes the opening of a reimagined 13,000 square foot shoe department that offers 70% more space and a wide assortment of casual and dress shoes – from designer brands to performance brands – as well as accessories, selected perfumes and a gallery of hats.
The department caters to the needs of today’s customers who are ready to own a lot more footwear for a variety of occasions, both dressy and casual. In addition to sneakers, this includes shoes from “power brands” such as Gucci, Valentino, Tod’s, Saint Laurent and others, many of which have installed new boutique concepts in the store.
But that was just the beginning. There are also new spaces for denim and advanced contemporary sellers. “This is the first time the clothes have gone from Lexington to Third Avenue on one floor,” Leppo said. The presentation is fluid and includes “small, innovative brands at the center,” he said. There are stores for Vince, Theory and Stone Island and space for contemporary bridge brands such as Boss, Varvatos and All Saints. On the north side of the store, where the shoes once stood, are classic sportswear brands such as Peter Millar as well as smaller boutique brands such as Sid Mashburn and Faherty. Other brands highlighted include Kenzo, Helmut Lang and Officine Generale, he said.
Leppo further revealed that after a hiatus of around four or five years, the company’s Double RL brand will be making a comeback this fall, the store is built its relationship with L.A.-based Ami and continues to grow with Balenciaga, Saint Laurent, Tod’s and Zegna. “We are very happy with our continued elevation,” he said.
But the more “gentlemanly” brands are not forgotten either, with new boutiques for Canali, Armani and the bespoke offer of Ermenegildo Zegna, as well as Eton. But rather focusing primarily on apparel assortments, high-end sportswear is also part of the mix, tackling what Leppo described as “a modern expression of how a gentleman wears a more tailored garment.”
This represents a revamp of a category that has been significantly impacted by the pandemic.
Leppo explained, “We wondered if we were going to expend energy trying to take tailored garments from terrible to just awful, or move to where the customer goes when they come out of COVID-19 and has to go to events, to dinner, to the office. It wants to look more polished, and we really conceptualized how we were going to present the floor with dressier sportswear presentations.
So, rather than focusing exclusively on interlocking suits, the store offers a Harrington jacket with drawstring pants, for example, to meet demand for hybrid garments and more comfortable options.
“What’s really exciting about menswear right now is how many men are really committed to fashion,” Leppo said. “If you think about the evolution of men’s fashion over the last 25 years, there’s an ongoing interest in a man shopping for himself and mixing the work and weekend wardrobe. end. And what that allows is a large-scale revival with very contemporary and very classic things that are strong at the same time. Streetwear is evolving — it’s a little less logo-driven, sneakers too, and we sees the rise of Birkenstock and On Running. But that’s the beauty of being a department store. If we’re on our game, then we go where the customer is going. That’s a lot harder to do when you are a vertical specialty store.”
And while the macroeconomic situation is still worrying, Leppo has learned not to focus on things he can’t control.
“What we’re doing is staying nimble and nimble to keep moving the goods the customer cares about and moving where they’re moving. And the customer is moving faster than ever before. »
Leppo said that fast-moving consumer isn’t just in New York, but also in other cities where Bloomingdale’s has stores.
“Before, there was a much longer lag between something that was very hot in New York, LA and Miami, and then hitting the suburbs,” he said. But in this world of social media, “the timeline is so much shorter. So things may go down a bit quicker in some of the big urban markets and take a bit longer in some suburban markets, but in terms of the level of interest and awareness, it’s a much shorter delta than before.
In addition to men, Leppo has also been marketing home business since 2015. Although many competitors have downsized or abandoned this end of the business, it remains an integral part of Bloomingdale’s success.
“Home is big business for us,” he said. “We are truly the only premium store in the United States: we have furniture, bedding, housewares, kitchen electronics, cookware, tableware, luggage and a business very robust marriage registry.”
Leppo said the store has built a reputation as a “home fashion store.” We have an economic model that brings us much closer to a Bon Marché, a Printemps or a Harrods. It occupies three full floors at the flagship. We have some of the biggest luxury brands in the world like Frette, Baccarat and Christofle. I can’t think of another luxury department store in the world that has 72 beds on its textile floor.
While category has always been a differentiator, activity was particularly strong during the pandemic when everyone was sheltering at home.
“There was an interest in cooking, an interest in updating your decor when you decided you hated the bed you slept in or couldn’t stand your sofa anymore,” he said. “Then there was a time in April 2020 when Amazon started prioritizing shipping basics to customers and deprioritizing some of their other businesses. And Starbucks has basically closed all of its stores nationwide. All of a sudden it was Christmas every day for us because I could deliver orders to customers within 48 hours. It was the first idea that it could be really interesting for the home business. And that led customers who loved us and our clothes to discover us in their homes too.
And Leppo expects the momentum to continue.
“We are at a point where there will be the most marriages since 1984. And we have a very strong marriage registry business. The table is very strong right now, and so is the luggage, as people start to travel again, both for fun and for work.
A year ago, Leppo was also given oversight of the cosmetics business, a lucrative category with an “energy and buzz” like no other. Now that the pandemic has subsided, the store will resume events this fall, bringing beauticians back to the floor as well as makeup clinics and other popular attractions such as spa rooms in each store where shoppers can work in private with associates to test skincare products. — from La Prairie and Lancôme to Clinique.
This mix of entertainment and commerce has helped Bloomingdale’s build great businesses with its brand partners in a variety of categories.
Leppo cited luxury fragrance as a business that has been “incredibly strong,” from Maison Francis Kurkdjian to Creed and Number 9, which have been “absolutely breathtaking in their growth.” They are very limited in distribution and offer incredible value for what they are.
The treatment business, led by brands such as La Prairie and Sisley, is strong, and although color overall “has been a bit slower to come back”, Chanel has stood out, as has Charlotte Tilbury and Dior, he said.
While cosmetics is dominated by products aimed at women, men have also shown more interest in the category.
“Men have become more engaged in treatment,” he said. “And on the fragrance side, it’s a very big chunk of the business,” with brands such as Tom Ford and Kiehl’s particularly popular with men.
For both genders, the days of harsh vaporizers are long gone, replaced by an elevated service experience that helps customers better understand each product’s unique value and properties.
Regardless of department, Bloomingdale’s will be celebrating its anniversary storewide with a host of special events.
On the men’s side, Leppo has chosen a bespoke Zegna event that goes beyond the traditional trunk show and will instead include stylists who work with celebrities for award shows to deliver their distinct sensibilities to Bloomingdale’s clients.
In the loop, the team is also working with Ralph Lauren on a special capsule for the anniversary. And even if there may or may not be broad links, the store will take over the bar restaurant at lunchtime to treat customers to a meal.
So what awaits Bloomingdale’s for the next 150 years? Leppo takes it one day at a time.
“We spend a lot of time trying to be in the moment,” he said. Whether it’s “significant moments like the Ralph Shop” or partnerships with Rent, Evan Hanson, the Beatles, Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20 and other moments over the years, “I hope we spend as much energy and effort to be in the moment for the next 150 years because that is truly our connection to our customers and their mindset.