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  • Writer's pictureRich Honiball

Today in Brand History: Bloomingdale's

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In 1872, Joseph and Lyman Bloomingdale opened "Bloomingdales Great East Side Bazaar" in NYC at 3rd Ave and 56th Street. Unlike other stores at the time, they sold a wide variety of European fashions, starting what would become known as one of the nation’s first department stores.

The brothers opened their first shop in 1861 selling "ladies' notions", making their name initially with a 19th century fad, the hoop skirt. It was a fashion trend made popular by Eugenie de Montijo, the wife of French Emperor Napoleon III who created the skirt to hide her pregnancy at the time.

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Corsets, skirts and men’s garments were some of the products that they added in their new store. They opened a purchasing office in Paris and continually brought new styles back to the United States. Bloomingdale’s reputation for carrying unique merchandise earned them a more loyal following and they quickly became a leader in the latest fashion and home furnishings. By 1886, the brothers made their famous move to 59th Street and Lexington Avenue. The shop had large glass windows which were used to display their items, often in a theatrical manner, and soon to be the canvas for their now famous holiday windows.

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By the early 1900's, Lyman Bloomingdale began to create vibrant print marketing, displaying their new slogan "All Cars Transfer to Bloomingdale's" on billboards, delivery wagons, and even ladies' beach umbrellas. The store expanded steadily and by the 1920's, Bloomingdale's took over the entire city block.

1n 1930, while Lyman Bloomington’s son Samuel was the CEO, the company joined with the newly formed Federated Department stores, organized in Columbus, Ohio the previous year. Federated served as a holding company for founding members F&R Lazarus & Company, its subsidiary Shillito’s, and Abraham & Straus.

By the 1940's, Bloomingdale’s had quickly become a shopping destination for people around the country and across the world. Fashion shows, galas, and other events were held at the New York store drawing huge crowds and international attention.

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By the 1970's Bloomingdale’s achieved celebrity status as actors, royalty and other celebrities frequented the store. Bloomingdale’s famous "Big Brown Bag" was introduced in 1973, originally created to hold blanket, pillow and linen purchases. The initial design was done in red, white and black as a reproduction of tarot cards from France. The bag became so popular that spinoff bags and purses for makeup and other items were soon developed.

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In 1976, Bloomingdale’s opened its first full-line store outside the New York market, in a suburb of Washington, D.C. starting an expansion that included Florida, Chicago, and Dallas, Texas. In 1996, Bloomingdale's expanded to the west coast with the acquisition of some former leases of The Broadway and Emporium stores.

The Federated Department Stores holding company changed its name to Macys, Inc. in 2007, which continues to run Bloomingdale's today.


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