NEW YORK, United States — Founded in 1899 by Herman Bergdorf and later owned and run by Edwin Goodman and his son Andrew, the iconic department store Bergdorf Goodman has long been a fixture of New York's retail landscape. Sold to the Dallas, Texas-based Neiman Marcus Group in 1972, the retailer opened a dedicated menswear store in 1990, located across Fifth Avenue just opposite the original store and geared towards "a Wall Street guy and wore a suit and tie every day to work." Now, after over two decades in operation, the menswear store has been extensively remodeled and recast using a newly introduced sub-brand — Goodman’s — which the store's management hopes will enter the vernacular of high-spending men much as 'Bergdorf's' has done for their female counterparts. BoF sat down with Joshua Schulman, president of Bergdorf Goodman, to learn more.
BoF: What do you think is most unique about Bergdorf Goodman's menswear business?
JS: What I think is interesting about Bergdorf Goodman is that we have the only standalone men’s luxury specialty store in America that is curated from multiple brands, with its own dedicated merchandising team which is responsible for just one store. It is about shopping markets around the world and really curating a mix, which we believe is unlike any other and is focused on the pinnacle of luxury. Bergdorf Goodman has always had an important role in identifying the rising stars in menswear. Bergdorf was the first department store to start carrying brands like Thom Browne and Tom Ford, which have become two of the most important influences in menswear.
BoF: How has Bergdorf's male customer evolved over time?
JS: When we opened a dedicated men’s store in 1990, the merchandise was geared towards a customer based that was primarily a captain of the industry, who was a Wall Street guy and wore a suit and tie every day to work, and there was only type of affluent customer. Today, we find that there is a much greater diversity of affluent customers and in the type of products that they’re interested in. But what they have in common is that they’re interested in products with great quality and great style, products that we work hard to provide for them.
What we’re finding is that men love to collect. Some guys collect cars, some guys collect electronics, some guys collect watches. And what we’re finding is that we can be a store for a man who loves to collect. Nowadays, men are collecting shoes and accessories and clothing in the way that they may buy art or buy watches. Our associates can show them everything.
BoF: Tell me about the renovations to the men’s store.
JS: Recently, we embarked on the first full renovation of the men’s store. We’re remodeling the entire store, top to bottom. As we’ve done that, we’ve looked at different categories of product and how men are dressing today. A couple years ago we didn’t have an assortment of men’s leather goods. But now when you come in the front door, we have a very important men’s leather goods assortment, including Brioni, Goyard, leather goods from Berluti, Bottega Veneta and other brands.
As part of our renovation, we also converted our third floor to a more loft-like space and, on that floor, we have an environment with brands like Givenchy, Rick Owens, Balmain — which are all important brands for us. We will be introducing Kenzo soon and some younger brands as well, like AMI, a key emerging designer for us.
BoF: You have also introduced a new sub-brand for the men's business: Goodman’s. What was the thinking behind this?
JS: The name on our doors is and will always be Bergdorf Goodman. However, we wanted to shine a light on our men's business with the Goodman's sub-brand [to show] that our men's store is the only freestanding luxury multi-brand men's store in New York City. While men's is often homogenised into an overall women's environment at other department stores, our men's store is a true modern haberdashery with a range of brands ranging from Tom Ford, Berluti, Goyard, Charvet, Zegna and Brioni to Givenchy, Rick Owens and Dries Van Noten.
BoF: In a competitive luxury market, many stores sell the same products at the same price. Tell me about your customer service. Is this a key differentiator? How have you upgraded your service offering?
JS: We’re extremely focused on service as part of our renovation. We have a new VIP fitting room complex where we can really service the client in the best way possible. The environment will be akin to a five-star hotel. We have dedicated sales associates who are able to go throughout the entire store. We don’t have concessions, so every sales associate is able to shop with their client throughout.
Customer service is just intrinsic to the way we work. We’re very focused on our customer; it’s a very important part of our business. Everything we do is through the lens of our customer. We’re also excited to be opening a bar in the men’s store over the summer, which was designed by David Collins. It was one of his last projects and we think that this is actually another level of service for our clients: to really give him some place of his own, even if we’re right in the middle of Manhattan, it’s nice to be able to stop in someplace for a drink or a sandwich.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Bergdorf Goodman is one of 30 leading menswear retailers recently recognised by The Business of Fashion and Pitti Immagine. To explore the full list, visit BoF’s new Menswear Hub, where you will also find menswear news and analysis from BoF correspondents and around the web, as well as a live index of the most influential people shaping the global menswear market.