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Retailers Get Cast In Big Studio Role

If you overhear a shopper at your local department store saying they need five identical shirts because the person wearing them is going to be a bleeder, you’re probably listening in on a Studio Services client. Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s and Nordstrom all have special departments in their Valley stores catering specifically to costume designers and stylists who outfit film and television actors, news anchors and reality show participants. (Neiman Marcus will join the list once their Topanga store opens in September.) “We help the designers and the stylists find clothes or merchandise in our store,” said Elvira Holguin, a consultant for Macy’s Studio Services, at Fashion Square in Sherman Oaks. “We also do props.” Studio services clients are very important, said Wiley Bartine, general manager of Bloomingdale’s, also at Fashion Square. Not only are they very fashion-savvy, but he considers them to be people who can establish fashion trends. “So for us to be able to offer an opportunity for them to come in and look at our assortment, and cater to what they’re hoping to accomplish, is not only satisfying to us but it can be beneficial (to the bottom line),” Bartine said. He wouldn’t quote dollars and cents, but did say that the studio services department contributes about 4 percent to the store’s total sales. Overhead is only three employees and a very small amount of office space. Crime shows, or films with lots of special effects may need as many as eight or ten of the exact same shirt, in the same size, if the actor is going to be murdered in grisly fashion or survive a bomb blast. When this is going to be the case, “We try to run an item locator before the shopper falls in love with (a particular pierce of clothing) to make sure it is an item we can get enough copies of,” said Ellen Preimesberger, studio services manager for Bloomingdale’s, also in Fashion Square. The consultants who work in these departments also do their homework. “We read the trades,” Preimesberger said. “It helps if we know who is being cast for which roles,” so they can be ready should a costume designer or stylist come to them for assistance in finding just the right wardrobe. It also helps to know if a show has been canceled. Typically, studio services’ allows their clients to take clothes without paying for them up front, so they can get approval from directors and the like, and make sure they fit properly. It’s called “memo-ing,” and the standard is that clothes can go out for seven days before they are brought back or considered sold. “There’s a lot of paperwork,” said Holguin. “You really have to keep track of a lot of stuff and we have sometimes, I don’t know, it seems like every show in the world is going on at the same time.” There’s also a lot of trust, said Preimesberger. They rarely have to send out the repo-man. “So much of this business is based on relationships,” she said. Between them, the three Bloomie’s staff have more than 30 years of experience working with the entertainment industry. “People come in because they love Bobbe (Aiona) and Charles (Gonzalez),” she said. Being that it’s a small industry, those who don’t abide by the unwritten code of conduct discretion on the part of the sales staff; honesty on the part of the shoppers may find they are not welcome in other stores either. Most of the time, costumers avail themselves of the studio services’ off-floor office which, in Bloomingdale’s case, “looks like a living room with racks coming out of the walls,” said Preimesberger. In addition to being comfortable, this minimizes both hassles for buyers and potential disruption to the sales floor. When stylists go right to the racks on their own, interesting interactions with sales staff and consumers can occur. “It’s pretty exciting some days,” said Holguin. She went on to relate a story about a costumer from the NCIS television show who spiced up the day of an unknowing member of the sales team. The floor associate, unaware the shopper was a stylist, asked if she could help and the shopper replied, “Yes, I’m looking for this jacket and I need another one of this same size.” The Macy’s associate replied that there weren’t many available in that size and the NCIS shopper replied, “Oh, it’s okay, she’s going to die tomorrow anyway.” Laughing, Holguin said, “Her mouth just dropped. She was just completely shocked.”

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