What’s in store? – Plenty at Dillard’s

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Blue mannequins give a modern and contemporary feel to the Antonio Milani shop.
The Edge, a new shop in cosmetics, gives more exposure to several beauty lines.
The Kate Spade handbag shop is bright and airy with distinctive fixtures and flooring at Dillard’s, Penn Square
Michael Kors jewelry, always popular
The new Polo for Women shop at Dillard’s, Penn Square.

What’s in store? – Plenty at Dillard’s, Penn Square

By Linda Miller

Change isn’t new to Dillard’s in Penn Square Mall, one of the department store chain’s top performing stores.
Sometimes the changes are sweeping, impossible not to notice. Like in 1992 when Dillard’s expanded into the former Rothschild’s space.

Then again in 2002 when Dillard’s opened its double-header, moving out of the Rothschild’s space and shifting men’s, children’s and home goods, along with a new furniture department, to the mall’s east end when Montgomery Ward shuttered operations.

Other changes over the years may have been less extensive, but 2008’s remodel and boost of the jewelry and handbag departments with more upscale brands, better lighting and new displays really resonated with customers.

Now there’s more to talk about and see. Last year wrapped up numerous additions, further transitioning the large store into a boutique type shopping atmosphere but with more depth and more assortments.

“That’s exactly who we are,” said store manager Brad Baker. “We are a department store made up of departments/shops within the store. Some people call it a store within a store concept. A shop within a shop. Eileen Fisher, for example, is a shop within a shop. It’s its own shop within our bridge environment.”

The shop concept extends to the men’s department, too, with Polo, Calvin Klein, Daniel Cremieux, Michael Kors and the new Hart Shaffner Marx sportswear.

Baker said 2014 was a busy year as several new shops and expansions were completed, including the Polo for Women shop upstairs, Michael Kors handbag shop remodel and expansion and the launch of Kate Spade handbags in its own shop with distinctive fixtures and flooring.

Also new is the Edge shop in cosmetics. It showcases contemporary displays for new-to-the-store Smashbox, Stila, Anastasia, Butter London, Xen Tan, Luminess, SimpleHuman makeup mirrors, Sarahpotempa, Glamglow and T3, along with more prominent exposure for Bliss, Philosophy, Napoleon Perdis, Dermablend, Osmotics, Strivectin and Clarisonic.

Jimmy Choo and Vera Bradley sunglasses were added to an extensive collection that already included Versace, Coach, Marc Jacobs, Ray Ban, Bobbi Brown, BCBG Max Azria, Maui Jim, Burberry, Oakley and Vince Camuto. Like the Edge, the sunglass shop is modern, open and well-lit, making it easy for customers to try on different styles until they find the perfect one.

“I think everything we’ve added really gives a more modern and contemporary feel,” said Leigh Randall, area sales manager for bridge, contemporary and modern ladies apparel. … It all looks much more like an upscale and high-end department store.”

High-end certainly hangs in the handbag department, with tremendous growth for Kate Spade, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Brahmin and Michael Kors.

“As a company, I think we’re trying to follow what the consumers are looking for as we go down our path,” Baker said. “In some cases, you try to lead the consumer in the direction fashion is moving, but sometimes you’re following the direction the customer is going.”

Often, the store’s relationship with a designer or brand starts with one item such as a fragrance. That happened with Kate Spade. Tory Burch fragrance will be in the stores soon, and perhaps it too will be the baby step that leads to placement of other Tory Burch products.

Though the Dillard’s chain is large with about 300 stores, the Penn Square store’s relationship with buyers is close. It’s not unusual for buyers to reach out to individual sales people for feedback. And the buyers are open to calls from department managers.

“We have a lot of input and a lot of interaction with our buyers,” Randall said. “If we’re on the street and see a brand we think we can sell, asking is free.” And encouraged.

The Penn Square store also is a test site for some items, including UGG sleepwear. After a successful run in Oklahoma City, it rolled out to other stores across the country.

As expected, new departments and brands regularly are added to the current lineup. A new department is being created for plus-size junior apparel. Trina Turk Recreation active wear is in stores now, as are Simone Perele and Huit in lingerie. Watch for OnGossamer and Jonquil there soon. Psycho Bunny, a contemporary, edgy line, will find a spot in the men’s department. James Avery is coming to the jewelry department.

And, yes, there’s a James Avery store in the same mall. There’s also a Coach store and a Michael Kors store just steps away. But both those brands sell extremely well at the Dillard’s store as evidenced by the newly remodeled Michael Kors handbag shop.

While 2014 was a busy year with additions and expansions, more changes may come, maybe ones that store management doesn’t even know are in the works. That’s what happens to a top-performing store.

“For some reason top management in the company has decided this is more of a regional draw in Oklahoma City and the facts bear it out,” Baker said. “They put more capital improvement money in this plant to keep us on the leading edge.”

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