NEW YORK — Gerald A. Sampson, president and chief operating officer of Neiman Marcus Stores and a key player in the luxury chain’s expansion, will retire Dec. 31. The company plans to announce the reassignment of Sampson’s duties before his departure, but didn’t specify whether those duties would be reassigned to current management or if a new president would be hired. Reporting to Sampson are the stores organization, including the chain’s three regional store directors; real estate; store planning and design; construction and properties maintenance; food services; loss prevention, and reengineering functions."Gerry has been an integral part of the growth and success that Neiman Marcus Stores has experienced during the nearly 10 years that he was president and chief operating officer," stated Burton M. Tansky, president and chief executive officer. Sampson, 61, plans to move east and spend more time with his family, and at his new house on Kiawah Island, S.C.With his impending departure, Neiman’s has additional succession issues. Tansky, 64, wears two hats as ceo of Neiman Marcus Stores and the parent Neiman Marcus Group. There’s been an on-and-off search for a new NMS ceo.Sampson’s 10th anniversary at Neiman’s would have been inMarch. When he joined Neiman’s in 1992, the position of chief operating officer was created for him by Neiman’s ceo at the time, Terry Lundgren. During Sampson’s tenure, Neiman’s opened 10 units (about a third of the chain), in Troy, Mich; Short Hills and Paramus, N.J.; King of Prussia, Pa.; Honolulu; Palm Beach, Tampa, Orlando and Coral Gables, Fla., and Willow Bend, Tex.His retail career began as corporate controller at the former J.J. Newberry. Next he joined May Department Stores where he worked for 18 years and chaired several divisions and supervised regional mergers.. Among the most rewarding parts of his job was lunching with Stanley Marcus once a month. "I was learning from the horse’s mouth. The thing he got me up to speed on was the importance of customer service. Satisfying the customer is the most important thing we do around here."Asked about the differences between May and Neiman’s, he recalled something he once told a colleague: "We both buy merchandise and we both sell merchandise and that’s where the similarity ends."

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