By and  on April 13, 2006

The top 10 stores ranked by brand awareness of high-end customers.

Luxury is a relative term in retailing these days. One consumer's luxury item might be another's everyday basic. As part of its Luxury Report 2006, Unity Marketing, based in Stevens, Pa., has released a survey of favorite U.S. department and specialty stores. "We capture two independent pieces of data," said Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing. "We ask respondents first if they recall receiving advertisements from these brands. Secondly, we ask of the people who did recall receiving materials, whether or not they purchased personal luxuries from those stores." More than 1,000 consumers were surveyed. The average household income was $140,000 for each of the samples.

Percentage of luxury consumers who recalled this brand from marketing communications or advertisements: 58
"Macy's is taking over the world," said Pam Danziger of Unity Marketing. This department store has the ability to cater to consumers of all incomes — consumers can select from designer labels such as Calvin Klein and Coach. Macy's also reported the highest purchase frequency of personal luxuries across the department store chains. Of the consumers who recalled seeing this brand from advertisements, 23 percent bought what they defined as personal luxuries (fashion accessories and apparel) from Macy's, according to Unity Marketing.

Percentage: 47
WWD reported in February that Nordstrom Inc. is expanding its luxury empire to New England, with its first Massachusetts store set to open in spring 2007. Nordstrom announced plans for three more units in the Boston area in the next several years, along with planned sites in Pittsburgh and Denver, among other U.S. cities. "What's most revealing about these rankings is that Nordstrom's position is really high, along with its brand awareness," Danziger said. "It is a powerful finding because of how many less stores the chain has compared to Macy's." In February, the Seattle-based company posted a 36 percent rise in fourth-quarter earnings "as demand for luxury goods continued at a breakneck pace," WWD said.

Percentage: 39
Selling designer brands such as Burberry, Jean Paul Gaultier, Zac Posen and Vera Wang, Dallas-based Neiman Marcus has 35 stores across the U.S. Texas Pacific Group and Warburg Pincus completed a $5.1 billion acquisition of the then-publicly held Neiman Marcus Group in October. The company's Web site states, "The Neiman Marcus Group has…stayed true to the principles of our founders — to be recognized as the premier luxury retailer dedicated to providing our customers with distinctive merchandise and superior service." The company reported that, for March, the strongest performers in the specialty retail segment included designer handbags, precious jewelry, women's contemporary sportswear and evening apparel and men's wear.4. SAKS FIFTH AVENUE *
Percentage: 37
Though this chain posted a loss in operating income for the fourth quarter, chief executive officer Stephen Sadove outlined a strategy in March to turn around the company. Among the plans were: Focusing more on its core 35- to 50-year-old customer, including the possible reintroduction of some private label brands; fine-tuning merchandise lines, and making its stores more competitive with Neiman Marcus at the luxury end, as well as with Bloomingdale's and Nordstrom on the more contemporary sides of the upscale market.

Percentage: 37
In March, the Bloomingdale's 59th Street flagship in New York was named "the most popular department store in the city" for the third year in a row by the Zagat Survey. Bloomingdale's has 36 stores in 12 states, with the majority located in the New York metropolitan area, and offers upscale fashion brands such as Donna Karan, Nanette Lepore, Michael Kors and Seven For All Mankind.

Percentage: 35
Dillard's faces its own set of changes. The retailer announced last month that it plans to offer a more upscale merchandise mix, "creating a contemporary tone" to attract new and more fashion-conscious customers. Popular designer labels include Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren and Dana Buchman. This came after a fourth quarter when the company reported a 9.3 percent decrease in net profits. WWD reported in January that the retailer's new credit cards carry the American Express logo, one of the results of a partnership between American Express and GE Consumer Finance.

Percentage: 32
The 180-year-old Lord & Taylor business is on the block. This store, which has grown to more than 54 units in the U.S., is for sale as a result of the merger between Federated Department Stores and May Department Stores. Federated told WWD in January, "[Lord & Taylor] does not fit with the strategic focus for building the Macy's and Bloomingdale's national brands." The chain, whose Fifth Avenue flagship hosted Sarah Jessica Parker bowing her scent "Lovely" last year, plans to be divested by the end of the year.8. MARSHALL FIELD'S
Percentage: 30
Chicago-based Marshall Field's, once a division of May, will be converting to Macy's nameplates by this fall. There initially had been some hope among Chicagoans that Federated might keep the Marshall Field's name. However, Terry Lundgren, Federated chairman, president and chief executive officer, said in February, "We've said all along that we will change the name to Macy's. I understand that it is a very emotional subject for the people in Chicago, but the business does need to move on. The [Marshall Field's] division has not been a stellar performer." Mainly located in the Midwest, this specialty chain offers brands such as Juicy Couture, Cole Haan and Kate Spade.

Percentage: 17
Barneys New York is expanding quickly throughout the U.S., even as its parent company, Jones Apparel Group, put itself up for sale last month. The luxury retailer celebrated its flagship opening in March in Boston's Copley Place. WWD reported that Barneys plans to open another flagship at the Palazzo Resort Hotel in Las Vegas. The 85,000 three-level store is to open in fall 2007 next to the Venetian, offering merchandise such as Goyard's Hullot Dog Carrier for $1,980, and Devi Kroell's Python Handbag, set at $2,180. More flagships and Barneys Co-ops are expected to be announced in the months ahead. San Francisco, Atlanta, Miami and Washington are among the sites being considered.

Percentage: 14
A symbol of exclusivity and luxury, Bergdorf Goodman, owned by Neiman Marcus Group, offers brands such as Oscar de la Renta, Marc Jacobs and Alexander McQueen. Bergdorf's latest endeavor is its renovation project, 5F, which stands for the new fifth floor of the Manhattan store and offers a unique display of contemporary merchandise, blending designers such as Theory, Diane von Furstenberg and Paige Premium Denim into one merchandised collection. Jim Gold, president and ceo, said in March: "We decided to create the subbrand, 5F, to send a strong message to our clients and vendor partners that Bergdorf Goodman, a store steeped in luxury, is also very serious about its contemporary sportswear, shoe and accessory business."Source: unity marketing; Pam DAnziger is also the Author of "Let Them Eat Cake: Marketing Luxury to the Masses — as well as the Classes"; *indicates a tie

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