Bloomingdale’s to sell home appliances in flagship store
This holiday season, Bloomingdale’s would like to sell you a dishwasher.
In the latest sign that department stores are desperate to redeploy excess floor space, Bloomingdale’s has cut a partnership with LG Electronics to sell refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashers and big-screen TVs at its Midtown Manhattan flagship.
On Monday, Bloomingdale’s is set to reveal a new, 550-square-foot section for appliances on the eighth floor of its store on East 59th Street. Wares on display will include a $7,000 LG fridge whose door becomes transparent when you knock on it twice.
For now, the push into appliances is partly a test, said Dan Leppo, Bloomingdale’s executive vice president and general manager of men’s and home.
“We will explore possibilities of expanding the partnership based on customer response and performance,” Leppo said.
Still, it’s a radical break from Bloomingdale’s history of hawking designer dresses, shoes and handbags. To close watchers of retail, it’s the latest in a continuing saga of oversize department stores grappling with dwindling customer counts.
“For Bloomingdale’s this is about driving store traffic,” said Gail Conroy, senior director of home appliances for LG Electronics.
She described the initiative as a “strategic partnership.” Instead of paying rent for its eighth-floor display, LG is providing Bloomingdale’s with large electronic screens at the store’s entrances, according to Conroy.
Increasingly, department store real estate is failing to command a premium.
Bloomingdale’s owner Macy’s lately has begun walling off sections entirely at its less productive stores that are too big for the amount of customer traffic they generate, according to a Wall Street Journal report this week.
Last year, Bloomingdale’s offered a free yoga class in the middle of a sales area on its third floor, with sweaty participants doing the downward dog while surrounded by racks of leggings and sports bras.
Saks Fifth Avenue, meanwhile, has opened a spa on the second floor of its flagship. In an area where women’s evening wear used to hang, customers now can get facials, manicures and laser hair removal, among other services.
JCPenney also has begun stocking its stores with large appliances, in part to grab market share as Sears flails in bankruptcy. Still, experts say the Bloomingdale’s appliance move signals an “anything goes” mentality has begun to grip department stores as they scramble to compete with Amazon and a slew of other competitors online.
“If department stores think there is an opportunity to make more money on something else, they will grab it,” said Craig Johnson of Customer Growth Partners, a Connecticut-based retail consultancy.
LG sees the Bloomingdale’s tie-up as an opportunity to promote its luxury line in a “calm and inviting environment,” Conroy told The Post.
In return, Bloomingdale’s is “providing another interesting experience for its shoppers,” she said.
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