BLOOMINGDALE'S by Maxine Brady


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Although Maxine Brady all but sanctifies Bloomingdale's and everyone connected with it, this ""authorized"" history is entertaining in itself and useful as a marketing study. After a cloying look at queen Elizabeth's 1976 visit, Brady traces the evolution of Bloomingdale's, beginning in 1872 when Lyman and Joseph ignored advice to locate on Union Square and instead rented a store on Third Avenue and 56th Street. Bloomingdale's began building the 59th Street store in 1886 and, the first year out, grossed $2 million by catering to the low-income neighborhood--a store policy until the Forties when Bloomingdale's decided to upgrade its image. But, says Brady, local suppliers of higher quality goods would have ""laughed at such an outlandish notion,"" so Bloomingdale's turned to European imports and created events to promote them: the 1961 ""France"" extravaganza, says Brady, ""more than any other single event in the history of the store. . . raised Bloomingdale's image."" She takes note of the disappearance of the bargain basement; the development of branch stores; shopping bags as status symbols (thanks to Bloomingdale's); and Bloomies as ""the trend-setter for the retailing industry."" Much of the marketing material and descriptions of store features such as in-house shopping services, restaurants, etc., were covered by Mark Stevens' ""Like No Other Store in the World"" (1979), which also dared to discuss Bloomingdale's flaws. Brady is worshipful, and pays lavish tribute to such store leaders as designer--now Vice President--Barbara D'Arcy. A liberal dose of hype, but still an interesting look at how a simple dry-goods store became a media monster--with lots of pics to prove it.

Pub Date: Sept. 5th, 1980
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich