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.

1. MACY'S
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.

2. NORDSTROM
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.

3. NEIMAN MARCUS
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.

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