Bloomie's at Westfield Old Orchard Mall

Inside Look: Retailers Across Sectors Continue to Launch Small-Format Stores

From grocery and mass merchant to electronics and department stores, the small-format wave is taking retail by storm. Come along with Retail Leader Pro for a firsthand look at the new Bloomie’s in suburban Chicago to see just how the department store retailer is coming to market in a smaller box.
Elizabeth Christenson
Editor, Retail Leader
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RL Pro Tip:  Small-format retail has been all the rage during the past few years, but just because the store footprint is smaller, doesn’t mean retailers are putting any less effort into making the in-store experience shine. 

Here’s how we’re seeing this trend come to life across retail:

  • Sprouts markets shifted all new store openings to reflect its small-format model across states to increase efficiency in the grocery shopping experience and provide shoppers with more exciting selections by eliminating non-productive space.
  • Rite Aid just debuted it’s smaller format pharmacy location in Virginia in an effort to bring better pharmacy services to underpenetrated communities.

Small-format stores allow retailers to be more efficient with their shelf space and tailor their offerings directly to the local community of consumers and their needs and wants. These stores are essential for areas like major cities and college campuses that lack the normal square footage needed for a traditional retail model and allow those residents the opportunity to connect with the brand in a new and unique way, ultimately creating higher brand value.

Last week, Bloomingdale's, a division of Macy’s Inc., opened its second smaller format store, dubbed Bloomie's, at the upscale Westfield Old Orchard Mall in the Chicagoland suburb of Skokie, Illinois. Retail Leader Pro had a first look walking through the highly curated store concept, which includes a new tech-enable stylist service and a cafe dining experience at its bCafé — all within 51,000 square feet.

As an iconic retailer celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, Bloomingdale’s is leaning into growing the smaller format concept — much like other retailers across sectors, from grocery (think Meijer, Save Mart and others) and mass merchandise to home furnishings, specialty and more. Target, Best Buy, Walmart and Macy’s are all experimenting with small-format concepts of their usual offerings as well. Retailers can tailor these smaller concepts to target a specific demographic or market, create a personalized shopping experience, or experiment with a new brand direction. Retailers also use smaller formats as a way to reach customers in urban areas or other towns — like college campuses — where larger stores are more difficult to open.

Bloomie's Women's Collection
Bloomie's women's collection is cultivated for the Chicagoland market.

While this Bloomie’s is located in the same mall where a former Bloomingdale’s location closed at the end of October, this new iteration is more prominently located in the mall around other high-end retailers and restaurants.

"Bloomingdale's has always been a part of the Chicago area, and we are incredibly excited to introduce Bloomie's to new and existing customers," said Tony Spring, CEO of Bloomingdale's, in a press release. "While Bloomie's is a new take on Bloomingdale's, our guests will still be offered an assortment of contemporary and luxury brands across men and women's fashion, home and beauty, but with a fresh take on the shopping experience."

The Bloomie’s format is part of Macy’s Inc.’s overall three-year “Polaris” strategy that includes closing about 125 Macy’s locations and expanding its off-price and off-mall retail formats, such as Market by Macy’s and Macy’s Backstage. Macy’s Inc. operates 34 Bloomingdale's stores, 20 Bloomingdale's The Outlet stores and two Bloomie’s in 14 states. In addition, Bloomingdale's has an international presence with locations in Dubai and Kuwait.

Cultivated for the Chicago Market

Bloomie's offers an assortment of contemporary and luxury brands across men and women's fashion, home and beauty.

The new Bloomie’s flagship is twice the size of Bloomingdale’s first Bloomie’s, a 22,000 square-foot concept store in Fairfax, Virginia, which opened last year and located in the Mosaic District, a local hub for shopping, dining and entertainment. While some of the Bloomie’s merchandise overlaps with its Virginia location, the Old Orchard Bloomie’s features merchandise particularly cultivated for its market and sales history from the former Old Orchard Bloomingdale’s store. For example, the Old Orchard Bloomie’s showcases an expansive home collection with a robust assortment across categories, including luggage, tabletop, housewares, bedding and mattresses, because home goods performed well at the former Bloomingdale’s in the mall.

The highly curated list of brands and personalized services caters to the needs and expectations of Bloomie's customers, while also giving the opportunity to explore new and exciting trends and products, a Bloomingdale’s spokesperson told Retail Leader Pro

Bloomie's Women's Footwear Collection
The first floor also showcases women's footwear.

Overall, Bloomingdale’s wants Bloomie's to be a venue for innovation, with all new features that enhance the customer experience. In turn, the store interprets the iconic Bloomingdale's aesthetic in a fresh way through innovative new design concepts, such as open white-painted industrial ceilings and contemporary overhead and accent lighting, particularly around merchandise in the beauty department, to accent products. Aqua signage and accents pop against a glossy, checkered pattern floor. The modern exterior of the building features a black-and-gray checkered pattern with large display windows and Bloomie’s signage in standout white. The open layout and flow of the store aims to drive consumer discovery, with experiences like rotating trend shops on both levels that highlight host activations, Bloomingdale’s said.

The ground floor entrance houses the “Front Desk,” a customer service hub offering: 

  • Virtual or in-person styling services;
  • Same-day, curbside and online pickup option;
  • Gift wrapping;
  • Monogramming;
  • On-site alterations; and 
  • Design consultations. 

To the right of the main entrance, Bloomie’s bCafé — a full-service, in-store cafe with a few small tables — offers a select list of beverages, cocktails and light American cuisine along with desserts, including frozen yogurt. 

The first floor also showcases a gift giving area along with women’s apparel and accessories, including fine jewelry, handbags, footwear, outerwear and a nook for lingerie, and a prestige beauty department with skincare, makeup and fragrance. The merchandise is a tighter edit of the most important and relevant brands for this market, Bloomingdale’s said.

Bloomie's Home Collection
The store’s lower floor houses Bloomie's extensive home collection.

Moving down the escalators, the store’s lower floor houses men's fashion, shoes and accessories. The "Gift Hub," also located on the lower level in the extensive home collection, connects Bloomie's consumers with stylists on guidance for gifting and home decor recommendations, registry assistance and gift wrap.

Already a cornerstone at Bloomingdale's stores, stylists are at the core of the Bloomie's service-driven experience, where they can provide human expertise and deliver personalized recommendations to shoppers. With consumer experience top-of-mind, Bloomie's also offers customizations and alterations directly in-store. Additionally, shoppers have the ability to "Buy Online, Pick Up in Store," and if something is not available at Bloomie's Old Orchard, Bloomie's stylists can order from Bloomingdale's stores and online.