• Thomas Russell

Retail innovator, leader Marvin Traub dies at 87

 Image of Marvin TraubMarvin Traub

NEW YORK — Marvin Traub, a longtime retail executive perhaps best known for his leadership at trendsetting department store Bloomingdale's, died July 11 at his home here. He was 87.

Traub was a native New Yorker who served in Europe during World War II and later graduated from Harvard University and its business school. He joined Bloomingdale's as a trainee in 1949 on its basement bargain floor, but rose through the ranks quickly to various executive roles.

He was president and CEO of the retailer from 1978 to 1992 and also served as its board chairman, and was vice chairman of parent company Federated Department Stores from 1988 to 1992.

After leaving Bloomie's in 1992, he founded Marvin Traub Associates, a global business development and strategy consulting firm in New York. He continued to work at the company until just before his death.

In 1998, Traub also founded the Home Co., a furniture retailer that had stores in Hagerstown, Md., San Marcos, Texas, and Atlanta. Various assets of that company were later acquired by Atlanta-based Fine Furniture Direct as part of a bankruptcy proceeding in the spring of 2002.

Steve McKee, president and CEO of HFI Brands Inc., partnered with Traub in 1998 when he started the Home Co. McKee said he has had tremendous respect for Traub, saying that Traub and the late Carl Levine, a fellow Bloomingdale's executive, together created "retail magic" for the furniture category.

In particular, McKee said, Traub created a home furnishings environment at the store that helped set it apart from other high-end retailers.

"He was an innovator who took risks and aggressively attacked opportunities," McKee said. "He combined this with exceptional leadership skills. He set high standards, expected results and did it in a way that everyone around him loved and respected him."

"I will always appreciate the opportunity I had to learn from him and will certainly miss his friendship," McKee added. "Marvin absolutely loved the furniture category and enjoyed the industry.... Marvin had a tremendous impact on the industry in both retail and manufacturing. He took the emotion and style level in furniture retail to its highest level."

Traub was also a trustee of the American Health Foundation from 1975 to 1978 and served on the visiting committee of the Harvard School of Public Health. In 1991, he received the Gold Medal of the National Retail Federation as well as the Legion D'Honneur and Ordre National du Merite from France.

Traub is author of two books, "Like No Other Store... The Bloomingdale's Legend and the Revolution in American Marketing" (1993) and "Marvin Traub: Like No Other Career" (2008).

He is survived by his wife, two sons, a daughter and four grandchildren.

A service will be held at 10 a.m. Sunday at Central Synagogue at 623 Lexington Ave.

Memorial donations may be made to The Marvin and Lee Traub Flexible Financial Aid Fund, c/o Mary Preston at Harvard University, 124 Mount Auburn St., Cambridge, Mass. 02138, or Pin Down Bladder Cancer, c/o Marvin Traub Associates, 410 Park Ave., Suite 910, New York, N.Y. 10022. For more information on the latter, visit www.pindownbladdercancer.org.

Thomas RussellThomas Russell | Associate Editor, FurnitureToday

I'm Tom Russell and have worked at Furniture/Today since August 2003. Since then, I have covered the international side of the business from a logistics and sourcing standpoint. Since then, I also have visited several furniture trade shows and manufacturing plants in Asia, which has helped me gain perspective about the industry in that part of the world. As I continue covering the import side of the business, I look forward to building on that knowledge base through conversations with industry officials and future overseas plant tours. From time to time, I will file news and other industry perspectives online and, as always, welcome your response to these Web postings.

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