Marvin S. Traub, the former Bloomingdale's president and chief executive who built the chain's flagship store into a New York City icon, transforming shopping into a brand of theater for millions of visitors, died Wednesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 87.
The death was confirmed by Mortimer Singer, president of Marvin Traub Associates, the consulting firm Traub founded after his 1991 retirement from Bloomingdale's. The cause was bladder cancer.
Traub was named president of Bloomingdale's in 1969, a position he held for 22 years. He sent teams of buyers to Spain, Italy, Yugoslavia and China, and re-created those countries in miniature through representative products sold out of his stores. In 1980, said Singer, Traub managed to borrow a collection of royal robes from China that he displayed as part of a sales promotion.
"We are not only in competition with other stores, but with the Guggenheim and the Met," he once told an interviewer. Even a tourist like Queen Elizabeth II visited the 59th Street store while she was in Manhattan in 1976.
"Traub single-handedly invented the concept of experiential marketing 30 years before it had a name," said Jeffrey Buchman, professor of advertising and marketing communications at the Fashion Institute of Technology. "He did what every retailer wants to do, which is give customers a reason to come to the store, an experience they can't have anywhere else."
Traub was born in the Bronx in 1925 to Sam and Bea Traub. His father was vice president of a lingerie manufacturer; his mother was a personal shopper at Bonwit Teller who, he once told a reporter, built a client list that included Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Mamie Eisenhower, according to an interview with writer Mike McGrath.
His Harvard University education was interrupted by World War II. He served in the infantry and was shot through both legs in France.
He started as an assistant in Bloomingdale's Downstairs Store in 1950, rising through such positions as hosiery buyer and rug buyer before assuming the presidency.
There, said Singer, he introduced Americans to such European designers as Yves St. Laurent, Fendi and Missoni, and nurtured brands like Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, turning a once middling retailer into a temple of cosmopolitan style.
Bloomingdale's became a national chain with a strong presence in the New York metro region. Today there are 46 Bloomingdale's stores in the U.S., including three on Long Island. There is also a store in Dubai.
After retiring from Bloomingdale's in 1991, Traub built a second career as a consultant with clients like Ralph Lauren and Estee Lauder.
Traub is survived by his wife, Lee; his daughter, Peggy, and his sons, Andrew and James.
A funeral will be held Sunday at 10 a.m. at Central Synagogue in Manhattan. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to pindownbladdercancer.org or the Marvin and Lee Traub Flexible Financial Aid Fund.