Bloomingdale's Lays Out Welcome Mat To Chinese Shoppers | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Bloomingdale's Lays Out Welcome Mat To Chinese Shoppers

Play associated audio

A number of luxury retailers are rolling out tactics this year to mark the beginning of the Lunar New Year. For Bloomingdale's in New York City, though, reaching out to Asian shoppers during the cultural celebration is a decades-long tradition.

The upscale department store's marketing strategy traces back to 1971, the year President Nixon lifted the U.S. trade embargo with the People's Republic of China. Immediately, Marvin Traub, then-president of Bloomingdale's, decided he wanted to sell Chinese goods in his flagship store on the Upper East Side.

"Bloomingdale's was the first store in the United States that had an event that was totally devoted to Chinese products and Chinese traditions and Chinese craftsmanship," says Michael Gould, Bloomingdale's current president and CEO.

The "China Passage" boutique Traub envisioned opened in the fall of 1971, and caused a sensation in New York. Customers poured in to buy housewares, crafts and even Mao suits and caps made on the mainland.

Now, Gould says, Bloomingdale's is just as interested in having sales go the other way. The store is attracting affluent visitors from Asia by creating a retail environment that caters to their interests and culture. Chinese tourists, especially, he says, have become as desirable in America as American tourists once were in Europe.

"All one has to do is walk the streets of Paris, or walk into Galeries Lafayette or Printemps, or even Harrods or Selfridges in London, and see how the Chinese have really gone there," Gould says. "You can see they've gone to where it's easy."

With visa processes now speedier for Chinese visitors, executives at Bloomingdale's are determined to draw them in the doors. While other stores recently have begun to woo Asian shoppers, Bloomingdale's remains a coveted and well-known destination among cosmopolitan Chinese because of its 40-year history with China.

Star Luxe, a bilingual and New York-based media platform, recently took its millions of Chinese viewers into the flagship store in Manhattan.

A reporter panned the camera to show off the store's welcome banners with Chinese calligraphy, scarlet floral arrangements and pop-up shops featuring everything from luxury leather goods — in red, for luck — to serving pieces in silver and gold.

Forty years ago, Bloomingdale's was a different scene when it asked Chinese manufacturers to adjust some of their items to appeal to American buyers. Now, it's making its own adjustments.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Meet The Johnsons, TV's 'Black-ish' Family

One new fall TV offering is getting a lot of buzz. Black-ish takes a look a middle-class black suburban family. The show airs in the same month The Cosby Show celebrates its 30th anniversary.
NPR

Starbucks Tests Drink That Tastes Like Stout Beer

The Dark Barrel Latte is topped with whipped cream and a dark caramel sauce, but contains no actual alcohol. The beer flavored coffee is only available in a few places.
NPR

House Lawmakers To Hold Hearing On White House Security Issues

New details are emerging about Friday's incident when a man scaled a fence and reached the White House before the Secret Service subdued him. The incident is prompting questions about lax security.
NPR

Some Tech Firms Capitalize On Privacy

Steve Henn of NPR's Planet Money team profiles some entrepreneurs who are working on a novel business model to start up a new tech company. It's pay for service. What a concept.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.