Bloomingdale’s, after months of considering several candidates from around the world, has selected Olivier Bron as its next chief executive officer.
Bron, who has more than 20 years’ experience in retail leadership roles, most recently was CEO of Central Group’s Central and Robinson Department Stores in Thailand.
Prior to Central and Robinson, he served as chief operating officer and director of strategy for French retail group Galeries Lafayette in Paris, and before that spent more than a decade at Bain & Company, the global consulting firm, where he focused on retail transformations.
Bron will start working at Bloomingdale’s in November. He will report to Tony Spring, the former CEO of Bloomingdale’s who last March vacated that role to become president and CEO-elect of Macy’s Inc., the parent company of Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury. Spring will succeed current Macy’s Inc. chairman and CEO Jeff Gennette, who is retiring in February.
Running Bloomingdale’s is a plum job in retailing. It’s a high-profile business with a clear image, a grip on contemporary fashion, luxury accessories and upscale home furnishings, and lots of energy. While noting that Bron will be leading Bloomingdale’s across all facets of the business and its overall strategy, Macy’s Inc. pointed out that he will also be responsible for building upon the store’s offering of designers, advanced contemporary and exclusive private brands. Bloomingdale’s has a strong chief merchant, Denise Magid.
Considering Spring spent his entire 36-year career at Bloomingdale’s before taking on the Macy’s Inc. corporate role, it’s expected he will work very closely with Bron on plans. Spring joined the store in 1987 as an executive trainee and steadily rose up the ranks through a broad range of experiences in buying, merchandising, marketing, stores and operations. A few years ago he was also given responsibilities for transforming Bluemercury.
Bron’s work history is different, being that his early career days were on the consulting side, spending 12-and-a-half years at Bain, until shifting to running department stores overseas. Bron will be relocating with his family to New York. Bloomingdale’s has offices in Long Island City, Queens, and at its 59th Street flagship in Manhattan.
“In Olivier, we have found an authentic and charismatic leader who understands and appreciates Bloomingdale’s culture, unique positioning in the marketplace, and unparalleled multicategory assortment,” Spring said in a statement Tuesday morning. “His extensive international retail career and deep knowledge of the luxury market will be invaluable as we pursue additional opportunities for growth.”
“I am honored to be named the next CEO of Bloomingdale’s,” said Bron in a statement. “Throughout its 150-plus year history, Bloomingdale’s has represented the best assortment of premium products in the marketplace. I’ve been a long time admirer of the brand and of Tony, who has built the foundation for such an incredible organization with inspiring talent and loyal customers. I look forward to building on the team’s momentum across Bloomingdale’s, including new store formats and continued digital expansion.”
The two executives were not available for further comment.
In its announcement, Macy’s Inc. credited Bron for devising and executing a strategy for sustainable growth at Central. At Galeries Lafayette, he was credited for playing “a pivotal role in driving operational efficiency and strategic planning.”
Bron has been leading Central since November 2021 when the company celebrated its 75th birthday and unveiled a five-year, 15 billion baht growth strategy, which translates to about $450 million at current exchange rates. The plan entailed store openings and renovations across Thailand; creating seamless online and offline shopping experiences; elevating products, services, the app, personalization, CRM programs and social media, and creating a big campaign for the anniversary.
At the Paris-based Galeries Lafayette, Bron was instrumental in ramping up growth with store openings in and outside France, specifically China and the Middle East.
“It’s normal that department stores don’t develop internationally because there’s no economy of scale abroad — we don’t necessarily share all of the brands, the clients aren’t the same and, in comparison with other types of businesses, there isn’t necessarily an advantage or considerable synergies to rolling out our model abroad,” Bron was quoted while at Galerie.
Still, Bron and the team were confident they had the right model for expansion abroad, Bron explained. “We will only develop abroad in regions where the brand awareness of Galeries Lafayette is the strongest,” Bron said.
Within the U.S. department store sector, Bloomingdale’s has been getting the highest reviews from consumers, primarily for quality luxury and contemporary offerings, crisp displays and an energized shopping experience abetted by associations with pop culture. The business has generally been performing well, though comparable sales were down 2.6 percent in the second quarter this year. Bestselling categories were beauty, women’s contemporary and designer apparel, shoes and the outlet locations, while handbags, men’s and dresses were soft.
Though business has been tough, Bloomingdale’s seems destined for increased support from corporate for expansion, particularly due to Spring’s intimate knowledge of the chain, including his last nine years as CEO and chairman there. He knows the opportunities.
With only 34 stores and 20 outlets there’s room for additional Bloomingdale’s in Texas, Arizona and the Northwest, where there are no stores, and markets that already have Bloomingdale’s could be filled in with Bloomies units, which are scaled-down versions of the department store. There are two Bloomies in operation, a 22,000-square-foot site in the Mosaic District lifestyle center in Fairfax, Va., and a 51,000-square-foot unit in the Westfield Old Orchard Mall in Skokie, Ill. A third Bloomies is scheduled to open in November in the University Village in the Ravenna neighborhood north of downtown Seattle. The expansion signals that it’s so far, so good with the small-store strategy, though too soon to green-light an aggressive rollout.
The Bloomies specialty store is small compared to Bloomingdale’s department stores, which average 150,000 to 200,000 square feet (excluding the flagship, which is about 600,000 square feet). Bloomingdale’s SoHo, at 78,000 square feet of selling, is the upscale chain’s second-smallest store, and Bloomingdales’s outlets average 25,000 square feet.
Opportunities overseas could be considered. Bloomingdale’s only has two international stores, which are licensed units in Dubai and Kuwait. Bloomingdale’s will also advance its online business, which was developed late in the game compared to Macy’s and other retailers. Also, Bloomingdale’s just launched a marketplace format on its website enabling the retailer to broaden its assortment.
Pre-pandemic, Bloomingdale’s annual volume was about $3 billion. Last year, the brand went all out to mark its 150th birthday.
Bloomingdale’s longevity and success stem from a culture of merchandising innovation and fashion risk-taking, a sense of theater, cautious expansion, an eclectic upscale assortment ranging from accessible to luxury, and continuity of management and ownership. In the last 50 years there have been only three CEOs, and the retailer has had only three owners in its 150 years in business.