Store of the Future   //   May 7, 2024

Macy’s Inc. to open its fourth Bloomie’s location in New Jersey this fall

A fourth Bloomie’s location is set to open in New Jersey this fall, part of the parent company Macy’s Inc.’s ongoing strategy to tap into more luxury sales with a new small format strategy. 

As lifestyle centers and outdoor shopping plazas take the place of old-school shopping malls anchored by department stores, Bloomie’s is an attempt to bring the brand ethos of the legacy department store to new locations and augment existing markets with a scaled-down experience. The new store is set to open in November at an outdoor shopping plaza called The Grove in Shrewsbury, New Jersey.

While a typical Bloomingdale’s department store may easily be over 100,000 square feet, the Bloomie’s stores are sized from 20,000 to 50,000 square feet. The first Bloomie’s opened in Fairfax, Virginia in 2021, a store meant to complement its existing larger stores in busier parts of the area. The next opened in Skokie, Illinois in November 2022 in the hopes of replacing a larger three-story location. The third location in Seattle opened last fall, making the first time Bloomingdale’s had a presence in the market.

Rachel Abeles, svp, customer and revenue growth at Bloomingdale’s, told Modern Retail that the small format helps the brand reach customers in more accessible and convenient locations.

“We can take the best of what Bloomingdale’s does in physical retail, and slightly reinvent it in a more contemporary and modern way that prioritizes highly curated fashion for those local customers,'” Abeles said.

The announcement of Bloomie’s expanded footprint comes as parent company Macy’s Inc. mounts a turnaround plan. While Bloomingdale’s had about 4 million active customers as of 2023, according to its latest earrings, its comparable sales were down 1.5% year-over-year. CEO Tony Spring said during the company’s most recent earnings call that one of Macy’s top three priorities is to accelerate luxury growth, which includes growing both Bloomingdale’s and its high-end cosmetics chain Bluemercury by 20%. The company is aiming to open 15 Bloomie’s and outlets across new and existing markets over the next three years, Spring said. 

The New Jersey store is an example of how Bloomingdale’s is focused on what it calls a “densification” strategy as it expands its smaller-format footprint. This means tapping into areas where it knows it has loyal in-person or digital shoppers but could get them to shop there more with a convenient, closer location. 

“This opportunity in Shrewsbury is a preeminent example of being able to get closer to customers,” Abeles said. “We have many known customers who would have to drive a fair distance to get to their closest physical Bloomingdale’s. And so our goal here is to really get closer to thousands of known customers that we have — the entire experience is really curated for what we know about them.”

Jessica Ramirez, senior research analyst with Jane Hali & Associates, said department stores have struggled to understand shoppers and what they want in recent years. At the same time, off-price retailers have been eating away at many players’ market share, Ramirez said.

While small formats are becoming an increasingly popular strategy, success will ultimately depend on the execution of their merchandising and offerings.

“We have seen this trend when brands and retailers are closing stores, they might be still opening stores in smaller formats,” she said. “And they tend to perform better, you have a more curated assortment that is far more productive.”

To help develop Bloomie’s prototypes, Bloomingdale’s enlisted architect firm Nelson Worldwide. Randy Ng, vice president and senior studio leader of Nelson Worldwide, said the biggest challenge is ensuring the store is differentiated enough from its competitors to be memorable while still catering to customer needs. That means a store layout that’s flexible and can be updated quickly based on trends and merchandising needs. One Bloomie’s location may have more men’s apparel due to the demographics of the region, while another may have a larger jewelry category.

“At any time you can move anything around to a new department, you can shrink, you can grow. You can bring in new categories,” Ng said.

Abeles from Bloomingdale’s said the company spent time researching the markets where it’s opening Bloomie’s locations to understand the demographic and their main shopping priorities. Some locations — like the forthcoming New Jersey store — are meant to help the brand grow its existing footprint in areas where it already has shoppers. Others, like Seattle, will be opened in new markets for the brand.

“This whole journey of launching Bloomie’s and opening Bloomie’s has really been about innovation and learning, and frankly listening to [customers],” Abeles said.