hen Bloomingdale's New York flagship store undergoes a major renovation, you can bet that the result signals a shift in merchandising presentation strategy and visual relationship with its market. Now, a brighter, more open and interactive shopping environment assures the continuation of the store's status as a retailing trendsetter and one of the world's leading merchandising organizations.
The complex 10-month-long Phase I renovation, completed late last year, focused on 17 departments on the main floor, arcade, balcony, and mid/lower level- -a total of 74,000 sq. ft. (6,660 sq. m) at the store. Managing the fast-track project, whose second and final phase should be completed by this fall, is Jack Hruska, Bloomingdale's senior vice president and visual merchandising director. Dallas-based Robert Young Associates, Inc., an award winner for its work with retail clients like Neiman Marcus, Sulka, Bon Marche, and Tiffany & Co., is the overall store planning and design consulting firm. Integrated Lighting Concepts of Westlake Village, CA, is responsible for creating the lighting.
Bloomingdale's, which is part of Federated Department Stores, opened four stores in California in November 1996, taking over sites of the former Broadway chain. A year later, besides the multilevel remodeling taking place in the Manhattan store, Bloomingdale's opened a new branch in Miami's Aventura Mall. Robert Young Associates and Integrated Lighting Concepts worked together with the in-house Bloomingdale's staff for these five branch locations as well.
"Fifty-ninth Street is one of the most challenging projects we have ever tackled," says Michael Wilkins, creative director of Robert Young Associates. "It's the most high-profile department store in the US, one of the centers of the international retail world, the store everyone visits when they come to shop in New York. And because it operates in that fast-moving, highly competitive market, it must present an identifiably contemporary image to appeal to its local, fashion-conscious consumer base."
Today's Bloomingdale's is five interconnected structures on many different levels. They date from the turn of the century through the early 1920s and 30s and were acquired as the original Bloomingdale Brothers store grew to encompass the entire square block extending from 59th Street and Lexington Avenue to 60th Street and Third Avenue. A complete set of as-built drawings does not exist, leading to on-site construction surprises, such as hitting bedrock during the renovation of the lower level restaurant.
In the late 1970s, Bloomingdale's store design outlook for its high-traffic first floor opted strongly in favor of the dramatic. The first floor's main east/west aisle became an internal thoroughfare called "B'way," promoted as a separate destination within the store itself and given its own 1930s-type logo. Signature colors were black and white. Sections of the floor were covered in a black-and-white checkerboard pattern, and areas of the ziggurat-like ceiling were covered in shiny black laminate and burled wood. Lighting designer Bernard V. Bauer, principal of Integrated Lighting Concepts, found that the light level ranged from 20fc to 35fc, and was supplied by a mix of T12 and U6 2x2 fluorescent and incandescent downlights plus a variety of accent lights.
The top priorities of the renovation program are to make it easier for the Bloomingdale's customer to shop, and to physically redefine the store's point-of-view for its famous main floor and the internal B'way thoroughfare. The renovation is also opening vistas throughout the selling floor to the updated departments. The solutions have involved raising the ceiling height, removing walls, and turning up the illumination level so that customers have their vistas of the store interior markedly extended.
Bauer's lighting program called for an increase of 200% in some areas within the power density of previously existing lighting. He combined energy-efficient sources, effective luminaire design, and luminaire placement to achieve 60fc of ambient light. Much of the incandescent and fluorescent lighting equipment used came from Indy Lighting, with additional fluorescent equipment sourced from Prudential Lighting and Lightron Lighting.
First, the ceiling above B'way was raised a full foot, up to 14'6" (4.5m), with backlit ceiling areas installed to define special sections and add overall visual interest. Next, the building's functional columns were given an Art Deco appearance. Painted white, they now have capitals formed of a modified egg-and-dart design finished with aluminum leaf with an amber wash. Column-edge details of the same soft patina-finish metal add subtle glitter to the sales floor's overall updated look.
In the elevator lobby, the removal of a high partition opened up additional selling space and revealed a handsome, long-hidden vista along the elevator bays. Luminous ceilings, coves, and low brightness luminaires give distinction to this area, newly fitted with glass-enclosed wall-mounted display cases and a curving band of jewelry showcases with glass tops and fronts.
The wall-hung cases mix remote ballast T8 3000K fluorescents and small MR-16 accent lights. For the jewelry showcases, Bauer specified 12V halogen "peanut" lamps and MR-11 accent lights that have remote transformers located in the base of the case.
The women's hosiery department (on the main floor level) uses groups of half-leg forms on the top of free-standing display units and mounted on the wall up to the ceiling line. Bauer selected 3000K/85CRI T8 remote-ballast luminaires for the low-profile cove lights. He favored frosted ribbed glass returns for increased vertical brightness. Between coves are recessed 32W PLT downlights and 100W halogen IR accent lights. Accenting the columns are glass-lens compact fluorescent wallwashers.
Handbags are displayed in glass cases of varying heights that are internally illuminated by T8 fluorescents and MR-16 downlights. Optikinetics projectors (five K2s and four K4s) are used for projections throughout the cosmetics department, housed on the main floor.
Bauer and Wilkins had 6' less of ceiling height to work with on the mezzanine level than on the main floor. "For the men's shops and the new 59th & Lex Restaurant, ceilings have less than 8' of clearance and contained pipes and structural limitations," Bauer says. To compensate for these drawbacks, shallow-profile, wide-distribution compact fluorescent luminaires with 3000K lamps were used for general illumination. Small-aperture 50W PAR-30 halogen IR recessed luminaires create accent light.
Front-facing men's suits hanging along the wall are illuminated with fluorescent wallwashers; a structural column covered with small blue tiles is grazed with 4100K cold cathode. Highlighting the wall displays are 18" 39W compact fluorescent wallwashers and 6"-aperture PAR-30 recessed accent lights, in alternating modules. In the men's shoes department, fluorescent wallwashers provide perimeter lighting. Accent lighting is provided by 50W PAR-30 halogen lamps.
The 59th & Lex restaurant combines a sleek urban theme with an inviting atmosphere, blending comfortable seating, warm colors, and curving geometry on walls and floors. Lighting is an integral part of the design, with glass wall panels backlit with compact fluorescent luminaires. Downlights that illuminate the glass dividers are 60W PAR-16 halogen flood lamps in 3" white baffles.
With improvements like these, the venerable retailing doyenne of 59th Street and Lexington Avenue has adapted easily to the grandeur of its remodeled spaces and new appointments.
Vilma Barr is a New York-based writer specializing in design and merchandising. Her most recent book, Stores: Retail Display and Design, has been published by PBC International.
One might assume, after scanning Bernard V. Bauer's client list and organizational activities, that he had deciphered an alchemist's formula to stretch time and space. Nothing so supernatural, contends Bauer, who is principal of Integrated Lighting Consultants in Woodland Hills, CA. Rather, it is the challenges of his retail lighting design practice and collaborations with other lighting professionals to communicate the changes in his specialty that help to propel his seemingly non-stop pace.
Currently, when Bauer isn't designing the lighting for department and specialty stores around the country, he serves as chairman of the Merchandise Lighting Subcommittee of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America's Retail Areas Lighting Committee. Forthe past three years, Bauer and his subcommittee colleagues have been preparing a revised and expanded edition of Recommended Practice for Lighting Merchandising Areas: A Store Lighting Guide, its first update since the mid-1980s. Expected publication date is early next year.
"We've broadened the content to appeal to architects, interior designers, store planners and designers, and retail lighting specialists," Bauer explains. While the previous edition had the style of a technical engineering manual, the new one will have a descriptive, application-driven, how-to-do-it approach. Brief discussions of changes in lighting philosophy will give the reader a perspective for retail lighting's current trends.
Bauer brings to his chairmanship of the Merchandise Lighting Subcommittee a 30-year background that interlaces design with state-of-the-art energy-management practices. Prior to starting his own lighting design firm, Bauer was with Bullock's Department Stores, where he combined the positions of manager of properties and in-house lighting design consultant to the store planning staff, and was in charge of the company's investment in lighting systems.
Since founding Integrated Lighting Concepts in 1989, Bauer (left) has collaborated with leading retail store planners and designers such as Robert Young Associates to create lighting for premier retailers like Bloomingdale's and Neiman Marcus. His practice has taken him to Mexico, Australia, and Asia. Current assignments include lighting for stores and theme parks for Warner Bros. in Germany and Australia, and two restaurants for Universal CityWalk in Los Angeles.
Bauer holds the credential of Certified Lighting Professional (LC), issued by the National Council on Qualifications for the Lighting Profession (NCQLP). He is the president of the Los Angeles section of the Illuminating Engineering Society, and a member of the IES regional energy committee. For the Association of Professional Energy Managers (APEM), Bauer serves as a director on the national board. Bauer is also active in the Institute of Store Planners.
As an instructor in lighting design, Bauer has presented programs at numerous conferences and at manufacturer-sponsored institutes. He has authored several technical manuals and policy guidelines. But by far, guiding the revision of Recommended Practice for Lighting Merchandising Areas: A Store Lighting Guide is his most ambitious editorial undertaking.
"Lighting has to assume a more important role in communicating information that will assist customers in making buying decisions," Bauer points out. "They have less time to shop--a by-product of increased family and social responsibilities. When they do get to a store, they often find fewer salespeople to help them locate merchandise than a decade ago.
"Merchants have to use every technique at their disposal to generate a desire on the part of customers to remain in the shopping environment," Bauer stresses. "It is axiomatic in the industry that the longer customers can be encouraged to stay in the store, the more they will spend." Savvy retailers are addressing these buying patterns by shifting their illumination specifications. Feature lighting has to be used judiciously and be merchandise-specific, Bauer stresses, and augment the presentation and display elements.
To reflect shifts in merchandising practice and operations, Bauer's committee has added several sections--on types of stores, ancillary spaces, lighting equipment, and exterior retailing--to the forthcoming edition of A Store Lighting Guide. Bauer says that an announcement of the availability of A Store Lighting Guide will appear in trade and professional journals, including Lighting Dimensions.
LD readers can help illustrate the guide. Designers are invited to submit high-quality slides, transparencies, or photos of recent retail projects for possible inclusion in the guide. Especially needed are illustrations of lighting solutions for dressing and fitting rooms; mirrors; wallwashers (systems and techniques); casework (wall cases, showcases); creative use of daylighting; exterior merchandising (such as car lots and garden centers); architectural facades of retail buildings; discount, warehouse, and mass-merchandising outlets; and mall entries and walkways.
Artwork should be labeled with the name of the project, the area shown, and the name and address of the submitter, along with other relevant information. Submissions will be retained by the Merchandising Lighting Subcommittee of IESNA's Retail Areas Lighting Committee. Deadline for receipt is June 15. Send to BPES, Attn. Vilma Barr, 34 West 15th Street, 3rd Floor, New York, New York 10011; phone: 212/691-5871.