Luxury fashion retail stores are “like the source of discovery and experience — the transaction might happen elsewhere,” says Imran Amed, founder of Business of Fashion. “When I think of retail now, I think of platforms, and when I think of platforms, I think of Amazon and Alibaba and JD.com. A lot of fresh brands have been hesitant to engage with these platforms. I think it’s no longer should we engage with these platforms, it has become a question of how we engage.”
Neiman Marcus is busy on social media, with its 4,500 sales associates talking up the store and connecting with customers on platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. As outgoing chief executive Karen Katz said earlier this year, “Customers who are attached to a sales associate spend more.” Katz stepped aside for fashion industry veteran Geoffroy van Raemdonck, formerly of Ralph Lauren and St. John Knits International. Neiman Marcus’s biggest challenge doesn’t involve fashion: It is the nearly $5 billion in debt left over from a series of leveraged buyouts.
Management machinations were also in the works at Nordstrom, where members of the founding family wanted to take the company private but were turned down by the board of directors. The company’s retail operations weren’t knocked off stride, as Nordstrom made a big splash this spring with its first-ever full-line men’s store in New York City. The three-story, 47,000-square-foot facility will be joined by a 320,000-square-foot women’s store across the street in 2019.