Menswear Buyer Article February 2018


Anyone been to Bloomingdales on Lexington recently? I was in New York last week for the new men’s trade show, Quest, on the piers. In between fighting buyers off with a sharp stick (if only….if only), I went to visit that grand old lady that is Bloomies. It’s never an easy store to navigate on entry with its odd half levels and confusing entrances but you could always rely on the Store Directory to plan your visit.

Not any more.

Clearly, someone high up the management tree, or more probably a Millenials Engagement Consultant, had deemed these useful pieces of equipment to be, like, sooooo last century, and replaced them with Digital Interactive Store Engagement Screen Guide Platforms. You now have to type in the department, brand or product you’re after, and then it may-or in my case, as it was broken-may not display where you need to go.

Perhaps in the fast moving world that is Bloomingdales it all became a bit much to update the old printed store guides every time they made some changes. But one of the uses of a department store Directory is that you could plan your visit, working out which floors to go to in turn; when to take a ‘comfort break’ as Americans so coyly call the toilet; and where to end up for a coffee. Now that requires a long and complicated process of entering each possible area you might want to visit one at a time, and holding that information in your head.

Quite apart from the fact that one of these had broken, it was clear that they were unpopular with shoppers as Bloomingdales had employed a smiling liveried assistant to stand next to the one that did actually work and tell bemused shoppers how to navigate the store.

I was moaning and grumbling about this in a Victor Meldrew style all the way to Grand Central station where the other half had taken a fancy to a very bold pair of glasses frames from the quite excellent optical chain, Warby Parker. We don’t really have an equivalent here. Imagine the bastard child of Specsavers and the new Canada Goose store on Regent Street. Very cool; super focussed and edited and making you really, really want to wear glasses.

Anyway, come time to pay, and they don’t, of course, have a till. How foolish of me to imagine that they would. Instead, they all wander around the store with shiny iPads into which they laboriously enter your card number; email, address etc. I assume that cash is worthless in Warby Parker land. A transaction that would have taken 30 seconds in the ‘old days’ took ten minutes, as the tired assistant tripped up over a couple of digits and had to repeat the process.

My point in all of this? I think it’s easy to assume that digital and tech is always better. Beware of introducing it in the misguided belief that you’ll look silly if you don’t. Start from the customer and work backwards.


Image by Malcolm Bell

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