Case Study: Bloomingdale’s The Carousel

The Highly Curated Shop-In-Shop & How To Replicate The Concept In Your Store

In the fall of 2018, Bloomingdale’s introduced The Carousel—a revolving "shop-in-shop" offering a highly curated selection of items. The Carousel has a new guest curator each go around, and the selection of products is typically oriented around some sort of theme. For example, the most recent iteration is called Good for the Globe and touts pro-surfer Quincy Jones as its curator.

With The Carousel’s temporary collections, Bloomingdale’s has a unique opportunity to take some risks by stocking quirky, niche and indie brands. While bringing in these brands adds a level of exclusivity that appeals to the consumer, it also allows the company to test-drive the selling power of off-beat products among the company’s clientele. In fact, Bloomingdale’s is very strategic in utilizing data collected during each theme’s run to improve the following iteration of The Carousel as well as inform the buying approach for the store’s broader product assortment.

"The Carousel is a great place for us to test out new brands and see how they resonate with our shopper,” Kevin Harter, Bloomingdale’s vice president of integrated marketing, explained in this Glossy article. “Through our learnings from The Carousel, we have been able to determine what could be beneficial to our overall assortment.  We’ve also seen success in offering a cross-shopping experience and have expanded this idea to other areas in the store.”

An intriguing proposition, The Carousel isn’t the first shop-in-shop of its kind. It was likely Bloomingdale’s response to Nordstrom’s Pop-In@Nordstrom—an in-store pop-up shop series which debuted in 2013. Similarly to The Carousel, Pop-In@Nordstrom offers a themed selection, minus the guest curators. Also updating regularly (every four to six weeks), the Nordstrom’s version has two distinct styles: the shop-in-shop either delivers a curated selection of diverse and exclusive brands around the designated theme or the spaces get taken over by one key partner to create a pop-in capitalizing on that brand’s product-line, aesthetic and vibe—this mono-brand version is often called “The World Of X Brand.”

Both shop-in-shop models, while similar, are equally compelling and there’s much to learn from this engaging approach to retail. Whether you run a chain store, a boutique sleep shop or otherwise, you could benefit from introducing a similar kind of program that is customized to your unique business and goals.

Benefits

Try Something New

Maybe you’ve been partnering with the same companies stocking similar products for years. If so, you likely maintain those partnerships for a reason—quality product, strong relationship, you name it. However, offering a mini-pop-up in your store does a couple of things: it adds interest, allows you to dip your toes into a relationship with a new or new-to-you manufacturer without being disloyal to your staple suppliers. It also gives you a chance to play around with your product offering at a low commitment.

Perhaps you’ve been wanting to introduce more health and wellness items into your store. Or maybe experiment with aromatherapy candles, essential oils and other sleep and relaxation oriented products. Now’s your chance!

“Test” Inventory

Since a pop-up or shop-in-shop requires a highly curated but smaller volume selection, you can test products among your consumers without having to worry too much about getting stuck with a large volume of items that don’t move.

Testing trends in this way is a great opportunity to not only stay relevant but to discern which product lines are just that: passing trends. Collecting data on each pop-up can help measure which products have staying power for your store’s target demographic—and some might even help you reach an entirely new demographic.

Additionally, if you bring something in your store that sells well, you’ll have the feedback you need to gauge just how much of that inventory you’ll need moving forward.

A Reason To Connect With Consumers After An Initial Purchase

Another key benefit of the continually changing shop-in-shop model? It’s a chance to reach back out to your patrons and a reason for them to come back through your doors—long before they are in the market for a new mattress.

Utilize your social media channels, email list and other advertising modes to build enthusiasm for each new theme. While not all stores can create the kind of build-outs a Bloomingdale’s or Nordstrom can, having an eye for the aesthetic of the temporary place and communicating the ‘coolness’ of it will go a long way.

Approach it like a mini museum exhibition; it’s something people really need to see and experience. Communicating that to the right audience, in the right way, at the right time is sure to draw some foot traffic.

Bonus

This model keeps retail buyers nimble and requires the retail location keep its inventory fresh.

Bringing The Concept To Your Store

Depending on the kind of store and what its bandwidth is, you’ll likely need to scale this idea to your budget, space and customer demographics. For bedding and mattress retailers, it wouldn’t make sense to launch a shop-in-shop featuring jewelry and apparel—but the shop-in-shop could be a chance to test out the success of pajama sales in your store.

Deciding On A Theme

When you start developing your theme, find an angle that will allow you to test a type of product you’ve been considering for your store. And, remember that you don’t have to be a huge department store to tell a captivating story or deliver a thought-provoking experience.

Here are just a few of our ideas:

  • Bedtime Stories : Try a kid-themed segment of your store. Be a little twee and curate a selection of dreamy night lights, bed-time reading and fairytale-esque pajamas for the actual little one—and the little one in all of us.
  • Building An Ideal Sleep Environment :Think beyond the basics. Offer aromatherapy or essential oil products in a variety of forms - diffuser, candles, pillows. Bring in humidifiers and dehumidifiers, black-out drapes, sleepy time teas, sound-machines and more. Think about creative add-on products that are proven to deliver a cleaner sleep and curate a corner of your store around that theme. Or, better yet, build an actual example of the ideal sleep environment on your floor and fill it with a variety of sleep enhancing tools only found in your store.
  • The Organic Bedroom : Take the sustainable and organic bedding approach a step further. Create a safe sleep or green wellness section of your store, complete with organic bedtime snacks, pjs made with natural fibers and more.

We could go on! There are so many options.

If you’re stumped, another approach may be to look for a product that really resonates with you and building your theme around that. Peruse lists like this one or this one for inspiration and to see what consumers and media outlets alike are talking about.

Deciding On Product

The success of a pop-up like this relies on thoughtfulness of product selection. Build out the collection with care—find exclusive, new, innovative products. By choosing items with limited distribution or items from buzzy brands that are not yet available in many places, you’ll entice consumers to visit your store because in it, they’ll be able to experience something they can’t experience elsewhere.

Marketing

Make sure people in your community know about your new “store.” Treat each theme rotation like the opening of a new location. Advertise in-print, online, on social media. Email customers about it. Have an opening day reception with on-theme refreshments. No matter the outlet, tell the story of each new pop-up with flare. Frame it as something special because it is. And, have fun with it!

Pay Attention

Finally, there’s one last simple step: keep track of what goes well and what falls flat. We are sure you’ll experience some super popular themed collections—but you’ll likely have a dud from time to time as well. In addition to carefully monitoring the quantitative data about what’s sold, what gets returned, etc, it can be helpful to also collect more qualitative information as well. Ask customers for feedback through online surveys or plan for regular debriefs with your RSAs so that you can get a sense of how each new experience is received by the public. In doing so, you’ll be able to better inform future shop-in-shop strategies and refine your broader product assortment as well.

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This article originally appeared in Sleep Retailer eNews on March 21, 2019.

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