NEW YORK — Marvin Traub, a merchant prince and former CEO of Bloomingdale’s, who transformed the department store chain into an international powerhouse, died at his home in Manhattan on Wednesday. He was 87.
The cause was bladder cancer, said Mortimer Singer, president of Marvin Traub Associates Inc., a consulting firm that Traub started in 1992. He had battled the illness since late 2009.
During a career that spanned 41 years, he transformed Bloomingdale’s from a staid department store into a prestigious retailer that launched the careers of such iconic designers as Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Traub also brought show business to retailing, hosting productions and special merchandise assortments that honored various countries from India to China, according to New York based retail consultant Walter Loeb. Under Traub’s stewardship, Bloomingdale’s cultivated a loyal following among such celebrities as Jacqueline Kennedy. And in 1976, Traub escorted Queen Elizabeth II through the Midtown store.
“Marvin transformed the store to being of the moment. He had an incredible ability to get outside the box,” said Michael Gould, chairman and CEO of Bloomingdale’s.
In a statement emailed to The Associated Press through his publicist, Ralph Lauren called Traub “a rare person and a rare friend.”
“Marvin Traub has been part of my life for over 45 years. His support and loyalty extended way beyond my professional life,” Lauren said. “When I opened our store on Madison Avenue and 72nd Street, Marvin was my first customer.”
Traub started his retailing career in the Bloomingdale’s midtown store’s bargain basement, and quickly rose through the ranks. He became executive vice president in charge of merchandising and sales promotions at age 37 in 1962, according to a blog devoted to Traub. By 1969, he was president, and he was named chairman and CEO in 1978.
Traub retired from Bloomingdale’s in 1991 and a year later started his own consulting business, which counted such clients as Ralph Lauren, Jones Apparel Group, Saks Fifth Avenue and Al Tayer, a privately held company based in Dubai. Working with Al Tayer, Traub was involved in helping Bloomingdale’s open its first store in Dubai in 2009.
Underscoring his remarkable steadfastness even while battling his illness, Traub showed up to work as recently as 10 days ago, according to Singer.
“He just loved what he did. He loved his business and his clients,” Singer said.
Traub is survived by his wife of 64 years, and three children, Andrew, James and Margaret.