Bloomie’s Seeks Success Where Others Failed

Discussion
Mar 26, 2007

By George Anderson

Gap didn’t make it with its Forth & Towne concept. Gymboree closed its Janeville stores. American Eagle Outfitters is looking to make some adjustments because its original approach was found wanting. To date, all these stores and quite a few others have sought to cozy up to women in the 35-to-45-year-old age group and come up short.

Despite the problems faced by others, Bloomingdale’s is also looking to decipher the code that will enable it to capture a greater share of the fashion dollars spent by these consumers. Bloomie’s answer is a new store-within-a-store boutique concept dubbed Quotation.

Quotation is targeted to so-called “yummy mommies.” These women may be mothers, but they have no interest, BusinessWeek reports, in appearing “matronly.”

Bloomingdale’s believes it is on to something with this concept and has expanded from six stores offering Quotation to 16 at present. The company is looking to have the concept operating in all its stores by 2009 at the latest.

The company expects to succeed where others have failed because it believes it knows where to find “yummy mommies” and has the understanding to deliver the types of merchandise they are looking for.

Interestingly, Bloomingdale’s consumer research found “yummy mommies” were shopping in the company’s stores although they were not usually buying for themselves. Instead, these consumers looked to outside boutiques because they felt Bloomie’s offerings were either too formal (Jones New York, Calvin Klein) or too young (Juicy Couture, Marc by Marc Jacobs).

As a result, the company developed a sportswear assortment that finds a space in between with 20 independent designers and a private label line that meets the needs of women engaged in a variety of activities, from picking kids up from after-school activities to a parents-only night out.

So far, said Frank Doroff, senior executive vice-president for Bloomingdale’s, Quotation has been racking up double-digit increases and, in the process, has “far exceeded our plans.”

Discussion Questions: Why did Forth & Towne and Janeville fail and what must Quotation do to succeed? Is there evidence to suggest that the approach Quotation is taking is distinctly different than what others have attempted or are attempting to do with roughly the same consumer base? Do you see it as a plus or a minus that Quotation operates as a store-within-a-store rather than a standalone boutique?

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13 Comments on "Bloomie’s Seeks Success Where Others Failed"


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Li McClelland
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Li McClelland
15 years 2 months ago

In my experience marketers who think they have a specific demographic “pegged” usually do not. In my experience, people do not, in fact, LIKE to be demographically “pegged” by someone who knows nothing about them. In my experience there is little difference between a fashion conscious 40 year old Bloomie’s shopper and a fashion conscious 60 year old Bloomie’s shopper who is in the same geographic area, size range and income range.

I view this more a way for Federated to introduce more private label merchandise into the mix and I doubt it will succeed…especially at Bloomingdale’s.

Bill Robinson
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Bill Robinson
15 years 2 months ago

I love Bloomie’s chances to make a big impact with the 35-45 women. It is a great long term strategy to focus on this group. In ten years, their numbers will begin to swell again.

The key is to success is for Bloomie’s to become brilliant testers. I hope they’ll set up their Business Intelligence tools to enable them to micro market whenever they innovate. They’ll need quick feedback to discover how this consumer is reacting to merchandise presentations, promotional approaches, styling, color, and sales approach. Eventually the tastes and preferences of this fiercely independent and illusive customer will be revealed. And Bloomie’s will gain a considerable competitive advantage where others have failed.

Joy V. Joseph
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Joy V. Joseph
15 years 2 months ago

Gymboree’s Janeville may have started off with the right intentions but instead of appealing to the ‘yummy mommies’ as Businessweek calls them, research by some analysts suggested that it appealed more to women older than that segment. GAP’s Forth & Towne may not have had the same problem, but they did make the threshold return on their investment to justify continuing to dedicate resources to the segment. This seems to suggest that retailers may not have the right strategy in approaching this demographic. I am not sure if I were in the 35-40 women’s segment I would want to be labeled as such or wear a line of clothing that would announce that. It is just a conjecture, but I think that is exactly the reason why Janeville appealed to a segment older than the one targeted; there might be a natural tendency for adults to subtly associate themselves with a younger demographic. With Quotation, Bloomindale’s might have a better chance at succeeding, because they seem to be capitalizing on this attitudinal quality.

Karin Miller
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Karin Miller
15 years 2 months ago

With creative, original, boutique-style merchandise and forgiving fits with strategically placed elastic, let’s not forget that Chico’s FAS, with their top-performing stock in the 2001-2005 time period, was built on satisfying this demographic. While they have had recent setbacks, they have shown that it is possible to succeed with this group.

That Bloomingdale’s believes that they are NOT currently getting their share of apparel purchases from this group is surprising, and certainly a problem worth working hard on to correct.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

The comparison w/F&T strikes me as somewhat cherries-to-apples: wasn’t it terminated because of GAP’s problems more than anything else?

As for Bloomie’s efforts, ultimately, a “store-within-a-store” boutique in a department store will end up looking like what it is…another department; this is particularly true when the brand name has no independent presence (contrast: Thomas Pink, Chanel, Coach, etc.).

Bloomingdale’s bigger long-term problem is to sufficiently differentiate itself from Macy’s, without negatively impacting the latter; and that problem will get even worse in June if/when Federated becomes Macy’s Group Inc. When the Bloomie’s spinoff finally comes, remember you read it here first!

Kris Medford
Guest
Kris Medford
15 years 2 months ago

I echo the concerns about the anti-aging bias. The almost religious adherence to youth in our culture is the biggest challenge when reaching out to, and clearly differentiating the “yummy mommies” segment. Transitioning from shopping in the young women’s section to a section targeted at slightly older women can be a very tangible sign of age for many women (conjuring a certain “can you believe what kids these days are wearing?” sort of dowdiness). Bloomingdale’s must position Quotation with the right story. This brings me to a concern about the store within a store format–the “barriers” around Quotation (both literal and metaphoric) should be clearly permeable to other sections in order to reflect the permeable lines that separate her various personas (mother, wife, sister, career woman, volunteer, etc….).

Leon Nicholas
Guest
Leon Nicholas
15 years 2 months ago

Not to cut to the chase here, but isn’t a bigger issue just demographics? From 2000 to 2010, the 35-44 age bracket declines by about 1% a year. There were about 2 million fewer 35-39 year olds in 2005 vs. 2000; and, as you might expect, there will be about 2 million fewer 40-44 year olds in 2010 vs. 2005. I think that the math just makes it tougher for banners that are catering to this bracket, at this time, to make it. This won’t be the case a decade or so from now, as the Echo enters this bracket. I’m sure there is a lot of really interesting things to say about Quotation and Forth & Towne, but it strikes me that we ought to start with the “soil” in which we’re planting our seeds….

Dick Seesel
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

If the goal is to build shops in all of Bloomingdale’s stores by the end of the decade, then the demographics suggest this is a smart long-term strategy despite the short-term declines in the 30-to-40 population. More importantly, Bloomingdale’s has the “halo effect” of departments like cosmetics, accessories and shoes to provide the fully-rounded assortment that specialists don’t attempt to provide.

However, Nordstrom has had success for some time aiming specific shops (like Individualist and Narrative) at particular psychographic or end-use segments instead of focusing too much on an age group; Bloomie’s would do well to pay attention. As to Forth & Towne, the lack of differentiation among the four “brands” in the store (and the added confusion of having Gap product in the store) really hastened the store’s demise.

Michael Tesler
Guest
Michael Tesler
15 years 2 months ago

It is easy to say your store is “for” a certain group. It is much, much harder to truly understand that group and then go out and find the correct merchandise that will both excite the target group and also meet their needs in terms of price, fit, fashion, function, etc. In addition to providing the merchandise it must be presented and marketed so that the target consumers “connect’ with it. Bloomingdale’s has merchants with the appropriate skills to accomplish the difficult tasks outlined above…Gap and friends, at present, quite simply do not have those skills.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

People don’t like acting their age so what makes us believe they want to shop their age, especially in fashion? The idea of age appropriate fashion only makes sense if you first believe that different demographic groups ought to be better defined by the clothing they wear.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

Department stores like Bloomingdale’s can more easily experiment with new labels than specialty stores who feel they have to build on different real estate with entirely separate merchandising organizations. However, the real problem for Forth & Towne was the parent: Gap. It’s doubly hard to nurture a new concept when the core concept is in deepening trouble.

Laura Davis-Taylor
Guest
Laura Davis-Taylor
15 years 1 month ago
I’m a 38-year old fashion loving female and can therefore comment as the ideal target for these folks (and a retail person of course!) I’m likely a specific demographic/psychographic in this group, but I feel strongly that I represent the most underserved and the one that Bloomie’s is vying to snare. I don’t agree with some of the comments above. It’s very hard to find the right mix of trend and individualism at this age and if someone can give me plenty of brand and style choices in one spot while making it a fun experience, I’m there. We aren’t our mothers and want to create our own hip style while not appearing like a “Sex In the City” trend freak. Many of us also don’t want fashion remotely close to Chico’s, as we’d shop there if it met our needs. I find it perfect for my 65 year old mom but way too old for me. My group of friends are all fit, healthy moms that look younger than our years and plan to… Read more »
William Passodelis
Guest
15 years 1 month ago
I think they have a chance to really benefit if this is done right and if it is smart and savvy. This target group has experienced life and has some wisdom and is not going to be dictated to as to what to wear. They have their own ideas and thoughts and are fairly sophisticated consumers. They must not be underestimated. The Forth and Towne concept was good but seemed a little poorly executed and too regimented. Thus, it seemed boring and dictatorial which is exactly WRONG for this demographic. GAP product is fine but should NEVER have appeared in these locales. Bloomie’s should most certainly NOT see this as an excuse for broadening private label offerings. SOME “exclusives” would be good and some mix-in of complementary private labels could be good but this should be a mix of smart and sophisticated merchandise, and that does not mean “only dressy” clothes. A woman can have a sophisticated appearance going to the grocery store. If the right things are offered to her by Bloomie’s, then they… Read more »
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