The new Neiman Marcus in Fort Worth, Tex.


Fitch Ratings said Neiman Marcus’ business model is somewhat protected longer-term due to “a number of factors.”

The ratings agency provided the update a day after the luxury retailer said it hired bankers to explore debt-restructuring options, including the sale of the company. Hudson’s Bay Co. is said to be in talks about a possible takeover of Neiman’s.

Fitch said Neiman’s has a limited distribution model, as well as the New York trophy Bergdorf Goodman, noting that its “superior and limited real estate positioning protects the company from secular challenges through much of the U.S. mall landscape.”

And while Fitch noted Neiman’s positioning with many key vendors and a differentiated luxury offering of fast-forward apparel and accessories brands, the agency also pointed to Neiman’s “established omnichannel model” for its Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and Horchow names. Fitch noted that the direct business operations “account for 30 percent of total sales, giving Neiman’s the highest omnichannel penetration among the major department stores.”

Fitch, which said it believes overall luxury spending will grow over time, added that “Neiman’s real estate portfolio and the attributes of its business model should enable it to be somewhat insulated, although not immune, from broader market shifts.”

Earlier in the day, the ratings agency issued a report detailing its expectations for the U.S. mall landscape over the next few years following a meeting with high-yield investors. It said department stores and specialty apparel retailers have been “battered” by the growth of online shopping and the changing consumer relationships to fashion. Those changes have also caused share loss to value channels, including fast-fashion and off-price, Fitch concluded.

Fitch concluded that companies such as Hanesbrands Inc., Kate Spade & Co., L Brands Inc., Neiman’s and PVH Corp. are likely “best in class,” since these firms have broad geographic exposure and are in multiple channels of distribution. Moreover, these are firms that could move up the investment ranks to investment grade.

With shopping for apparel no longer the primary leisure activity coupled with the rise in online apparel sellers, consumers have also been spending less time in regional malls. Given the large-scale store closure announcements, such as the 100 doors at Macy’s and the 130 to 140 sites at J.C. Penney, Fitch concluded that tenancies at U.S. malls will evolve, and could possibly include big-box retailers, grocery stores and dining and entertainment complexes.

Fitch also concluded that the financially and operationally stronger department stores, such as Macy’s, Nordstrom and Kohl’s, are likely to “at least maintain their share of the apparel and accessories space over time.” In contrast, midtier specialty firms are expected to face more challenges, in part because many sell company-branded merchandise, which is more dependent on the health of the company brand.

As for those most likely to restructure over the next two to three years, the company cited The Gymboree Corp. and Claire’s Inc. It also cited J. Crew Group and Neiman’s as companies that will have to deal with “significant debt maturities” over that period.

Fitch analyst Monica Aggarwal also looked at what options are left for Sears Holdings Corp. While the company is still looking at monetizing assets such as its Sears Home Services and real estate holdings, the report said the “ability and magnitude” to utilize any proceeds from its sale of company-owned brands Kenmore and DieHard will depend on Sears’ negotiations with the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., which has a lien on the brands.

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