How New York Retailers – From Bergdorf to Bloomingdales
Fall 2020 was designed to be a season of metallic fabrics and rhinestone shoes. But COVID-19 has changed everyone in fashion. Retailers around the world abruptly closed their stores and designers canceled the parades. As quarantine restrictions have been lifted, high-end retailers in Manhattan have started to open their doors and welcome buyers and customers again, although the return is far from normal.
Many designers have turned to the Internet to present their next collections. Yet some of the biggest names in fashion, like Dior, Gucci, Saint Laurent, have ditched their traditional fall and winter runway schedules and are simply looking to 2021.
Many high-end Manhattan retailers have reopened, at least to some extent, but they are keeping a low profile on store performance and current inventory offerings. The safety of customers and employees has become paramount for designer clothing. The current health crisis and the demand for fashion products have not turned out to be the best business equation.
The situation this year is quite different from that of the Great Recession of 2008-2009. Although the financial world has collapsed and the retail sector has suffered double-digit sales declines, the events of the company were not canceled. The world was not confined to its homes.
In late June 2020, Lexington Avenue retailers in Herald Square reopened their stores and adopted a business model dictated by the CDC and city health guidelines. Some of these businesses have remained closed to Internet users and have looked for ways to meet the needs of customers.
One of New York’s iconic fashion retailers remains temporarily closed to foot traffic. Bergdorf Goodman, the iconic Fifth Avenue department store, reopened on June 24 for private appointments only. Bergdorf’s launched several service options, such as curbside pickup, same-day delivery to Manhattan, and free same-day service to the Hamptons.
Kim Choroco, Marketing and Communications Manager at Bergdorf Goodman, says they are ready to serve their customers “where and how they want to shop and interact with us. Our associates will also continue to connect virtually with our customers to deliver channelless sales in digital and physical environments. The retailer does not have a reopening date for the general public.
Bloomingdales reopened its Lexington Avenue and Soho stores to in-store shoppers on June 22. The high-end department store emphasizes its multiple security measures that meet or exceed the CDC protocol. Bloomingdales offers contactless curbside pickup and ‘shopping by appointment’ service. Colleagues in the store are subject to daily well-being checks and compulsory masks.
Unlike other fashion retailers, Bloomingdales has a full range of standard department store offerings. A company spokesperson recently said that as a publicly traded company, the store cannot comment on the store’s sales or traffic. But the retailer reported that its home and luxury skin care departments “continue to perform well.”
The situation at the Hudson Yards Neiman Marcus store is somewhat different. Reports have abounded that the bankruptcy company will not reopen its year-old Manhattan site. “All related discussions with owners are confidential,” says Amber Seikaly, vice president of corporate communications. Despite this information, Hudson Yards Neiman Marcus store currently offers curbside pickup. The Neiman Marcus Group also operates the Bergdorf Goodman store.
“Currently, more than 90% of [Neiman Marcus] The store fleet is open to some extent – either curbside pickup, private appointment or full shopping, or a combination of these. All of our stores are expected to reopen in the coming weeks, as long as local and state mandates allow and we believe it is safe to do so, ”says Seikaly. Its legendary downtown Dallas flagship also remains closed but, like the Hudson Yards location, offers curbside pickup.
Manhattan’s long-awaited Nordstrom was only opened four months before the pandemic shut down the new location. The seven-level store was designed to rejuvenate Manhattan’s commercial landscape, and its seven restaurants have transformed the Manhattan Nordstrom into a shopping, dining and social destination.
But its COVID-19 shutdown has put an end to Nordstrom’s party atmosphere. The Manhattan flagship location recently reopened and touts safety measures like health exams, face masks for employees and customers, limiting high-frequency services and eliminating in-store events. Its seven in-store restaurants, an emblematic element of the store’s identity, are only open for take-out orders.
Nordstrom says its popular anniversary sale will continue as planned for mid-August. John Bailey, Nordstrom’s senior director, Brand PR, says the sale will feature new merchandise from some of its most popular brands.
Saks Fifth Avenue, located across from Rockefeller Center, reopened on June 24. The Fifth Avenue location requires face masks, limited elevator occupancy limits, and escalator handrails frequently sanitized with ultraviolet light.
Saks’ return, especially when it comes to its prime location, helps bring a sense of normalcy back to New York City. The store’s iconic windows feature the words “NYC.” WELCOME BACK: WE MISSED YOU ”in large letters.
LVMH, the Paris-based fashion company and owner of several brands from Louis Vuitton to Dior, Givenchy and Fendi, operates numerous boutiques in New York and around the world. A spokesperson for the company reports that its sales representatives “have not lost contact with our customers during the lockdown.” LVMH also assures its customers, “with regard to the next Christmas and New Year celebrations, we will have the necessary inventory to satisfy all of our customers”.
Although it closed its Fifth Avenue flagship store in early January 2019, Lord & Taylor maintains a presence in the New York suburbs and in many cities on the East Coast. But the store has struggled to sit up financially since it changed ownership last November.
Lord & Taylor says he is “generally satisfied with the way our communities and loyal customers have responded so far; particularly in our stand-alone community stores and our main shopping center doors in the northeast. The retailer, operated by clothing rental company Le Tote, says in early observations “customers shop for a specific purpose.” Lord & Taylor also says that a significant percentage of its 38 stores remain closed without a firm reopening date.
It is not clear where the high fashion retail business is heading. Although they are back in business, most retailers experience low foot traffic on their sales areas. Sales of designer clothes are driven by personalized service and tailor-made fittings. The curbside pickup service is not glamorous.
While cultural institutions have announced their closures and cancellations until the end of 2020, there are little to no events posted on the calendars of the legendary New York City company. There may be little demand for future fashion purchases, especially as designers put their collections on hold. Haute couture was not designed to be worn in the home.