Until the latter part of the 19th century, most American clothes shops were boutiques, selling only one type of item, such as hats or gloves. This meant customers had to make trips to several stores to put together a full outfit.
At first, brothers Joseph and Lyman Bloomingdale’s shop was no different – it focused on hoop skirts, which were fashionable at the time. However, in 1872 they opened a shop that sold a wide range of high-end clothing, much of it imported from Europe.
The Bloomingdale Brothers Great East Side Bazaar (as it was initially known) proved such a hit that they moved to a larger location in 1886 (where it still resides today).
The brothers benefited from the fact that the nearby area experienced rapid development, bringing in business. Smart use of publicity, capitalising on its proximity to major transport links, also attracted shoppers.
As a result the store began to expand, taking over the adjoining buildings. By 1929 these had beenconsolidated into a now-famous Art Deco building that spanned an entire block.
By the postwar period, Bloomingdale’s was firmly established as a New York icon. It provided many famous European designers with their first exposure to the American market. Indeed, it was so popular that Queen Elizabeth II visited it on a public trip to New York in 1976.
Meanwhile, a takeover by rival Macy’s, in 1948, gave it enough capital to open up satellite stores, starting with one in the New York suburbs. Today, it operates 37 stores around the US, and a branch in Dubai.