The world was a very different place 150 years ago. People were predominantly driving horses and buggies. Women were still wearing corsets. They also couldn’t legally vote (though that didn’t stop Susan B. Anthony!). One thing that hasn’t changed? The stores we’re shopping in. Today, on September 8, Bloomingdale’s is celebrating its 150th anniversary—yes, folks, we’ve been carrying the little brown bag for longer than we’ve been casting votes at the ballot box. Though it’s not the only centenarian in the department store space (believe it or not, Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue all had their beginnings prior to 1872), it is a remarkable milestone in a world in which the average lifespan of a multinational corporation falls between 40 and 50 years—and that was before the e-commerce boom.
So how has Bloomie’s managed to stay afloat? Largely, with a focus on “exclusively, excitement and sophistication” throughout the years, as cumulated through the store’s relationships with popular and budding designers alike and a growing emphasis on customer service. After all, as Bloomingdale’s CEO Tony Spring says in a press release for the celebration, "Some of fashion's best brands started here, trends have been ignited here, and discoveries are made here every day.”
He’s not wrong: Before Ralph Lauren got his own eponymous store, he was overseeing the Polo by Ralph Lauren shop inside Bloomingdale’s, with top designers like Perry Ellis and Norma Kamali also getting a boost from their relationship with the store.
It’s these close connections that have allowed the retail giant to expand from its initial flagship store at 56th Street and 3rd Avenue (where the Queen herself once visited) to the 35 department stores and 20 outlets it had grown to as of 2020, including one in Dubai.