This interview is with Jeannette Jarnow, the first chairperson of the Buying and Merchandising Department at the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.). Jarnow describes her professional ascent at the department store, Abraham & Straus, up to 1944; when she took a brief break due to her first pregnancy. Jarnow describes the path that led her to seek out a teaching post at the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.). Instead of offering Jarnow a professorial post, Rosalind Snyder invited her to found the Buying and Merchandising Department in 1956. Jarnow describes the challenges of starting a department including the extent of publicity efforts for the department as well as for the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.) itself, still struggling to make its name known in the Industry. As there were little to no instructional materials available, Jarnow assembled several books such as, “The Mathematics of Retail Merchandising,” and “Inside the Fashion Business,” that would come to be used by other educational institutions as well as by professional training programs. Jarnow briefly theorizes why the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.) was not as impacted by student unrest in the 1960s before launching into a depiction of the industry seminars her department held as a service to the Industry. She continues on to discuss the evolution of merchandising with the rise of chain stores, and the ways in which the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.) stays on top of industry trends. Finally Jarnow lists a host of successful alumni such as Sidney Biddle Barrow, the “Mayflower Madam,” who became famous for founding the most expensive call-girl operation in New York City.
This conversation covers very little of Lester Gribetz' life and career at Bloomingdale's. There is a brief intro in which Gribetz lays out his professional trajectory from trainee under Martin S. Traub to his role in merchandising. Like most of Traub's employees at Bloomingdale's, Gribetz praises Traub as a boss and as a person. He describes him as exciting, challenging, enlightened, and demanding. Gribetz attributes Traub's high standards to keeping workers excited and motivated. Traub is described as charitable in a number of the Bloomingdale's interviews but Gribetz shares a specific story of Traub organizing a massive fundraising effort for AIDS research after one of his buyers passed away from the disease. In describing the retail environment, Gribetz explains that a retail career is demanding and varied, and the hard work has discouraged many where others have thrived. Prompted several times to define Bloomingdale's milestones, Gribetz first discusses the team before Martin S. Traub's era and then the transitions and departmental changes that marked a real turning point with Traub. Bloomingdale's food business is discussed as a distinction among other retailers as well as the elaborate country promotions which were at their peak success at the time of this interview. The Bloomingdale's customer is described as being educated, affluent, adventuresome, and inventive. While Gribetz describes these qualities as being somewhat inherent in New Yorkers, he goes on to say that these ideas are present in customers in all regions and that Bloomingdale's still appeals to the mass market because it grants these qualities upon the customer.
This conversation takes place only a few weeks after Schaefer had joined Bloomingdale's as the Vice President of Marketing. Schaefer gives a quick recap of the previous 13 years of his career before talking about his thoughts on his new boss, Marvin S. Traub, as well as his new position at Bloomingdale's. Coming from first a marketing background and then, briefly, a retail background, Schaefer discusses the importance of retailers being fully aware of what people are reading, wearing, listening to, and even eating. This awareness is a qaulity of Traub's that Schaefer praises and which he attributes, in part, to making Bloomingdale's stand out in the retail industry. Schaefer also talks about Bloomingdale's distinguising itself by being a place of diversion, entertainment, and fun as opposed to being simply a mode of distribution. When discussing his job interview for Bloomingdale's, Schaefer recalls being impressed by the amount of thought and planning that evidently went into the future of the store and uses the country promotions as an example.
As Bloomingdale's VP of Executive Recruitment and Development at the time of this interview, Margaret Hofbeck describes the department store's lengthy training program and how it affects the staffing at higher levels. Hofbeck details the steps that a new hire must take to grow in merchandising and she credits the immediate hands-on training to be what sets Bloomingdale's apart from other stores, in regards to training. Hofbeck talks about her earlier work in advertising and how she was hired at Bloomingdale's to work in labor relations, a position that was created exclusively for her. In regards to Bloomingdale's CEO Marvin S. Traub, Hofbeck credits him as being a pace setter and trend setter. Through Bloomingdale's, Traub has created an entire lifestyle that attracts both customers as well as strong merchandisers. As the one who oversees the recruitment, hiring, and training of all of Bloomingdale's employees, Hofbeck speaks from experience when she describes Traub's ideal employee to be a strong, creative entrepreneur with excellent taste as well as business sense. Hofbeck speaks to the vital balance between the creative side and the business side of Bloomingdale's and argues that the industry, at the time of the interview, needed people with a stronger business sense. This interview was conducted by Estelle Ellis, founder of Business, Inc., a business market research firm.