How New York Retailers – From Bergdorf’s To Bloomingdales – Try To Sell High Fashion During A Pandemic – Forbes

Re-opening Continues Across Densely Populated New York And New Jersey Areas

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JUNE 24: Saks Fifth Avenue displays a ‘Welcome Back’ sign on their store … [+] windows as the city moves into Phase 2 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to curb the coronavirus pandemic on June 24, 2020 in New York City. Phase 2 permits the reopening of offices, in-store retail, outdoor dining, barbers and beauty parlors and numerous other businesses. New York state plans on re-opening in four phases. (Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

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Fall 2020 was designed to be a season of metallic fabrics and rhinestone shoes. But COVID-19 has changed the entire fashion world. Retailers around the globe abruptly closed their stores and designers cancelled runway shows. As quarantine restrictions have lifted, Manhattan’s upper-end retailers have begun to open their doors and welcome back shoppers and clients, though the return is far from normal.

A number of designers have turned to the internet to present their upcoming collections. However, some of the most famous names in fashion, such as Dior, Gucci, Saint Laurent, have abandoned their traditional calendars of fall and winter shows and are simply looking ahead to 2021.

Coronavirus Pandemic Causes Climate Of Anxiety And Changing Routines In America

NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 12: People walk past the boarded up Louis Vuitton store iin Soho on Easter … [+] Sunday on April 12, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)

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Many of Manhattan’s upper end retailers have reopened, at least in some capacity, but they remain tightlipped about store performance and current inventory offerings. Customer and employee safety has become paramount to designer apparel. The current health crisis and the demand for fashion merchandise has not proven to be the best business equation.

This year’s situation is quite different from the the Great Recession of 2008 to 2009. Though the financial world collapsed and the retail section suffered double digit sales declines, society events were not cancelled. The world wasn’t confined to its homes. 

By the end of June 2020 retailers from Lexington Avenue to Herald Square reopened their stores and adopted a pattern of trade dictated by CDC and city health guidelines. Some of these businesses have remained closed to the browsing public and have searched for ways to meet customer needs.

Businesses Close Stores Nationwide In Response To Coronavirus Pandemic

NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 18: A sign in the window announces the closing of the store at Bergdorf Goodman … [+] Department store as it sits closed in the wake of the Coronavirus, COVID19, outbreak on March 18, 2020 in New York City. Businesses continued to close days after bars and restaurants shuttered as authorities in New York weighed a “shelter-in-place” order for the entire city. (Photo by Victor J. Blue/Getty Images)

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One of New York’s signature fashion retailers remains temporarily closed to foot traffic. Bergdorf Goodman, the iconic Fifth Avenue department store, reopened on June 24 for private appointments only. Bergdorf’s has launched several service options, such as curbside pickup, Manhattan same-day delivery and complimentary same-day service to the Hamptons.

Kim Choroco, Head of Marketing and Communications at Bergdorf Goodman says that they are willing to serve their clients “wherever and however they want to shop and engage with us. Our associates will also continue to connect with our clients virtually to deliver channel-less selling across both the digital and physical environments.” The retailer does not have a reopening date for the general public.

Bloomingdales reopened its Lexington Avenue and Soho locations to in-store shoppers on June 22. The upper-end department store stresses its multiple safety measures that meet or exceed CDC protocol. Bloomingdales offers contact-free curbside pickup and a “shop by appointment service.” Store Colleagues are subject to daily wellness checks and mandatory face masks.

New York City Enters Phase II Reopening As Some Retail And Restaurants Open

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JUNE 22: People walk in front of the recently opened Bloomingdale’s store as … [+] Manhattan enters Phase 2 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to curb the coronavirus pandemic on June 22, 2020 in New York City. Phase 2 permits the reopening of offices, in-store retail, outdoor dining, barbers and beauty parlors and numerous other businesses. Phase 2 is the second of four-phased stages designated by the state. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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Unlike other fashion retailers, Bloomingdales offers a full line of standard department store offerings. A company spokesperson recently stated that as a publicly traded company, the store could not comment on sales or store traffic. But the retailer did report that its home and luxury skincare departments “continue to perform well.”

New York City Tourism And Entertainment Industry Stifled By Coronavirus Restrictions

NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 22: A view of ‘The Shops’ mall in Hudson Yards hours ahead of implementation of … [+] ‘New York State on PAUSE’ executive order as the coronavirus continues to spread across the United States on March 22, 2020 in New York City. The World Health Organization declared coronavirus (COVID-19) a global pandemic on March 11th. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

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The situation at the Hudson Yards Neiman Marcus store is somewhat different. Reports have abounded that the company, in the throes of bankruptcy, will not reopen its year-old Manhattan location. “Any related discussions with landlords are confidential,” says Amber Seikaly, Vice President of Corporate Communications. In spite of those reports, the Hudson Yards Neiman Marcus store is currently offering curbside pickup. The Neiman Marcus Group also operates the Bergdorf Goodman store. 

“Currently, over 90 percent of the [Neiman Marcus] store fleet is open to some degree – either curbside pickup, private appointment, or full shopping, or some combination of those. All of our stores are scheduled to reopen in the coming weeks as local and state mandates allow and as we feel it is safe to do so,” states Seikaly. Its legendary downtown Dallas flagship also remains closed but, like the Hudson Yards location, offers curbside pickup.

Nordstrom Manhattan

Signage in the Manhattan Nordstrom store promotes the safety measures taken to assure customers.


Manhattan’s long-awaited Nordstrom was only open for four months before the pandemic closed the new location. The seven-level store was designed to rejuvenate Manhattan’s retail landscape and its seven restaurants turned the Manhattan Nordstrom into a shopping, culinary, and social destination.

But its COVID-19 closure put a halt to Nordstrom’s celebratory atmosphere. The Manhattan flagship location recently reopened its doors and touts safety measures such as health screening, face masks for employees and customers, the limitation of high-touch services, and elimination of in-store events. Its seven in-store restaurants, a signature component to the store’s identity, are only open for take-out orders.

Nordstrom states that its popular Anniversary Sale will continue as scheduled for mid August. John Bailey, Nordstrom Senior Manager, Brand PR, assures that the sale will feature new merchandise from some of its most popular brands.

Saks Fifth Avenue, located opposite Rockefeller Center, reopened for business on June 24. The Fifth Avenue location mandates face masks, limited elevator occupancy limits, and escalator handrails frequently sanitized by ultraviolet light.

The return of Saks, especially in relation to its high profile location, helps bring a sense of normalcy back to New York. The store’s signature display windows feature the words “NYC. WELCOME BACK: WE MISSED YOU” in large letters.

LVMH, the Paris-based fashion company and owner of several brands from Louis Vuitton to Dior, Givenchy and Fendi, operates numerous boutiques in New York City and throughout the world. A company spokesperson reports that its sales representatives “did not lose contact with our customers during confinement.” LVMH also assures its clients, “with regard to the upcoming holiday season, we will have the necessary inventory to satisfy all of our customers.”


NEW YORK, Jan. 3, 2019 — A woman takes photos through a window of the closed Lord & Taylor flagship … [+] store on Fifth avenue in Manhattan, New York City, the United States, on Jan. 3, 2019. The famous department store chain Lord & Taylor officially closed its flagship store on Fifth avenue in Manhattan. The 11-storey building was a landmark on New York’s most prestigious shopping area for over a century, boasting about its animated holiday windows and fine selection of jewelries and clothing and attracting city dwellers and tourists alike. (Xinhua/Wang Ying) (Xinhua/Wang Ying via Getty Images)

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Though it closed its Fifth Avenue flagship in early January 2019, Lord & Taylor maintains a presence in New York’s suburbs and throughout many East Coast cities. But the store has struggled to gain its financial footing since its ownership change last November. 

Lord & Taylor reports that it is “generally pleased with how our communities and loyal customers have responded thusfar; especially in our freestanding community based stores and our top mall doors throughout the northeast.” The retailer, operated by clothing rental firm Le Tote, states that in early observations “customers are shopping with a purpose.” Lord & Taylor also says that a significant percentage of its 38 stores remain closed with no firm reopening dates.

It’s unclear where high fashion retail is heading. Though they are back in business, most retailers are experiencing low foot traffic on their sales floors. Designer apparel sales are driven by personal service and custom fittings. Curbside pickup service is not glamorous.

As cultural institutions have announced their closures and cancellations through the end of 2020, there are few to no events posted on New York’s storied society calendars. There may be little demand for future fashion purchases, especially as designers put their collections on hold. High fashion wasn’t designed to be worn around the house.


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