Closure of Bloomingdale’s department store at Westfield Old Orchard in Skokie

Old Orchard, a 1.7 million square foot property on Old Orchard Road and Skokie Boulevard, hadn’t lost a department store since early 2018 when Lord & Taylor left. In addition to Bloomingdale’s at the north end of the mall, Old Orchard now includes a Nordstrom at its south end and a Macy’s in the middle.

Bloomingdale’s will close when Bloomie’s, a new, smaller format concept, opens later this year, according to a statement from the retailer. Bloomingdale’s, owned by New York-based Macy’s, is shrinking its footprint in Old Orchard in the process: the department store totals 206,000 square feet, while Bloomie’s will occupy just 50,000.

A Bloomingdale’s spokesperson confirmed the new store is opening in space recently vacated by bookseller Barnes & Noble. A representative for Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, the French company that owns Old Orchard, did not respond to an email.

Old Orchard has a strong lineup of tenants, including Apple, Tiffany, LL Bean and Crate & Barrel, and its location in Chicago’s affluent northern suburbs is an advantage. But he hasn’t come through the last few years without difficulty. All malls suffered in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, shoppers stayed home and many stores were ordered to close.

Old Orchard was no exception. The mall’s estimated sales fell to $353.6 million in 2020, down nearly 36% from 2019, according to a report prepared in February for the village of Skokie. The report did not include data from 2021, when the retail market began to stabilize.

Still, about 21% of the mall was vacant in February, according to the report. Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield struggles to re-let Lord & Taylor store; a virtual reality game operator takes up less than half the space under a short-term lease, the report said.

The mall also filled another vacancy earlier this year, when the Capital Grille leased a 10,000-square-foot restaurant space there that had been empty since McCormick & Schmick moved in 2018.

Skokie officials stepped in to help out Old Orchard, a major source of land revenue for the village and local schools. Skokie Village Council voted in March to approve a redevelopment deal that would include an additional 1% sales tax on transactions at the mall to help fund $84 million in improvements there.

Major department store chains have closed stores across the country in recent years, a trend that has accelerated during the pandemic. More recently they have started creating smaller format stores with a leaner selection. The Macy’s chain, for example, has rolled out its Market by Macy’s concept, recently signing a lease for a store in Evergreen Park.

Bloomie’s in Old Orchard, meanwhile, will be the second store of its kind in the country. The first Bloomie’s opened last August in Fairfax, Virginia.

“The new concept remains authentic to the Bloomingdale’s brand while reinterpreting it on a smaller scale, infused with energy and ready to be discovered,” Bloomingdale’s stores manager Charles Anderson said in the statement. “We look forward to sharing the ‘Bloomie’s’ experience with our loyal North Shore customers and new customers.”

The story has been corrected to show that Lord & Taylor closed its Old Orchard store in early 2018.