Bloomingdale’s New Home Fashion Director Is Raring to Go
Department stores were already facing a reckoning when the pandemic hit. High-profile bankruptcies had plagued premier brands like Barneys New York, which reached the end of its road this past fall. The challenges only intensified this year, as Neiman Marcus navigated its way through a bankruptcy that was spurred on by reduced business during the pandemic. In August, after years of struggling, Lord & Taylor announced that it would go out of business.
In one corner of the market, however, Bloomingdale’s, a subsidiary of Macy’s, Inc., continues to hold on, perhaps in part due to its relatively small number of stores (there are 35). As the company, like its peers, continues to work to improve the retail experience and meet consumers’ needs—particularly at a time when typical shopping habits have been completely upended by COVID-19—the home department remains one key area of focus.
“Bloomingdale’s home offering has always been an important advantage, but it is even more valuable as we expect our customers’ lifestyles to continue to center around the home into 2021,” says Kelley Carter, Bloomingdale’s new home fashion director. “As a multi-category retailer, Bloomingdale’s is in a unique position to meet our consumers’ changing behaviors by offering everything from textiles to tabletop, housewares, furniture, and more in a single destination.”
As such, there’s perhaps no better time for a new leader in the home department. With a background in editorial, styling, and trend forecasting, Carter, who assumed her role in August, has consulted for luxury brands and worked at publications and websites including O, the Oprah Magazine; Real Simple; and Refinery29. “Throughout my career, I’ve been a market editor,” Carter tells AD PRO. “I’ve been in the market for many years, so I’m very familiar with it and I’m so excited to bring my voice and my vision.”
Priorities for Carter include getting the word out about Bloomingdale’s home decor offerings, to both consumers and the trade. “I don’t know if the design world knows that it’s a one-stop shop across every single home category,” she says. “I’m excited to be there to really amplify that in the design world and to people who are interested in decorating.” She points out that the assortment ranges from high-end furniture from brands including Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams and Bernhardt to simpler investment pieces such as bedding. “We have one of the largest assortments of luxury bedding and an incredible selection of mattresses from brands like Matouk, Sferra, Frette, Hästens, and Schifman,” Carter says.
Also appealing to professional decorators is Bloomingdale’s Design Trade Program, which provides members with discounts ranging from 20% to 50%; rewards program benefits; and the option of having a dedicated representative to coordinate ordering, invoicing, and shipping.
Carter also hopes to expand and upgrade the product assortment, while maintaining the curated point of view that sets it apart from other multi-brand retailers. Specifically, she sees a huge opportunity in providing a platform for Black designers to sell their products. “Since I am very tapped into that community, I think it’s important for me to use my resources,” she says. “Black designers are severely underrepresented across the industry; I think Bloomingdale’s has an opportunity to lead the world.” She is currently holding open calls with designers and buyers to see how the brand can take charge in this arena.
Furthermore, with consumers’ renewed focus on the home this year, Carter knows there is unlimited potential when it comes to luxury residential products. “People are really focused on investing in their homes, fixing them up, buying nice pieces—luxury pieces that can transform their spaces into sanctuaries,” she says. In terms of what people are buying, it dovetails with the universal demand for comfort. “We’re seeing warm, natural materials like rattan and wicker and caning [take off],” Carter explains. “A lot of beautiful linens; a lot of lush, sensuous things.”
Also, with people investing more in their backyard spaces, high-end outdoor products are in demand. She cites the Ooni pizza oven as one such hot commodity. “Even though we launched it in 2019, it is doing extremely well this year because customers are looking for ways to elevate every element of their homes,” Carter says.
Generally, despite the challenges that the retail world has experienced since the start of the pandemic, Carter feels optimistic about where her department—and the industry—is going. “As an editor, home was always in the shadows of fashion, but now it’s the star,” she says. “I think we’re going to see a lot of innovation in the home space.”