Following the death of former Bloomingdale’s chief executive Marvin Traub earlier this month, Retail Week looks at how he changed retail

The influence of Marvin Traub on global retailing cannot be underestimated. Traub, who lost his three-year battle with bladder cancer aged 87 earlier this month, transformed his US department store into a name synonymous with retail excellence.

Traub retired from Bloomingdale’s in 1991after 41 years with the business and set up Marvin Traub Associates, a consulting business which worked for Ralph Lauren, Saks Fifth Avenue and Jones Apparel Group among others.

The merchant prince pioneered a new approach to marketing and merchandising, prioritising an unrivalled in-store experience that has inspired retailers.  

Traub, who became president of Bloomingdale’s in 1969 and was named chairman and chief executive in 1978, can be credited with launching the careers of iconic designers including Donna Karan, Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren who dubbed Traub “a rare person and a rare friend”.

Traub led the idea of creating country-specific displays and product ranges from India and China, an idea that has clearly influenced UK retailers in stores such as Harrods.

He is also credited with allowing shoppers to gain a global perspective by reaching further afield to import products. He built product links with suppliers in Europe and expanded Bloomingdale’s product range wider than the competition.

Traub was not afraid to invest in in-store events. Famously the retail magnate stocked 14 stores with enough food and fashion products for 11 million shoppers when launching Bloomingdale’s Come to China campaign in 1980.

Traub’s quirky sense of humour came through in much of what he did and he innovated in creating iconic shopping bags which didn’t even carry the retailers’ branding simply their branding.

He was also known for his ability to bring through talent. Former Avon chief executive Andrea Jung and JC Crew chief executive and former Gap chief executive Millard Drexler are just two of the high profile figures Traub nurtured.

Ultimately Traub’s legacy will be the creation of both an iconic brand in Bloomingdale’s and several key moves which changed the face of modern retailing.