Department store retailers should continue to push upmarket in defiance of the downturn, according to Bloomingdale’s chairman and chief executive Michael Gould.

“There is still a desire for people to trade up overall. The million dollar question is whether we are looking at a bump in the road, or is it going to be a detour and I don’t think we know yet. But people are still aspirational,” he told Retail Week.

His comments came as the management of German department store chain, Karstadt – which is owned by Arcandor – left the premium department store group and speculation was rife that Wal-Mart could be planning a bid for the retailer.

It also followed news that Bloomingdale’s parent company Macy’s is poised to cut costs by centralising its four regional operations, although Bloomingdale’s is not part of the consolidation. The review could lead to the slashing of hundreds of jobs, according to reports.

Gould said that Bloomingdale’s intends to maintain an aggressive growth strategy in spite of the economic backdrop and added that plans are in place for when the US emerges from the recession. “There will be an end to this period and we need a house that is built on great foundations for when it happens,” he said.