NEWTON, Mass. — Postponing opening new stores until 2005, Neiman Marcus Group instead plans to spend roughly $130 million remodeling two existing doors and turning its San Francisco store into a 250,000-square-foot flagship.

Asreported, the 60,000-square-foot addition will give the Bay Area, where the economy has been sputtering, the distinction of having the largest Neiman’s door.

That was the word from president and chief executive Burton Tansky on Tuesday after the company’s annual meeting — a brief session in which top executives’ morning greetings lasted longer than the official proceedings.

"That was the shortest one on record," joked one executive at the conclusion of the meeting at the Marriott here. "Less than two minutes."

Although no shareholders attended, security guards on alert for antifur protesters flanked the small room where executives gathered. The company has been aggressively heckled by protesters at other events.

In addition to its San Francisco renovation, set to start Jan. 2004, the company will tack 30,000 square feet onto its Newport Beach, Calif. store and rework the layout of its Houston store to expand the selling floor. In fiscal 2002, the firm opened stores in Orlando and Coral Gables, Fla., and renovated its Las Vegas store as part of an overhaul of the Fashion Show Mall.

Remodeled stores will feature brighter lighting and a bigger home department modeled after the accessorized rooms concept of Bergdorf Goodman’s seventh floor.

Despite Neiman’s sprucing up of its home department, Tansky said the luxury customer’s embrace of casual coziness and the comforts of home has been over-emphasized. He noted he’s seen strong selling in traditionally glamorous categories such as women’s shoes, eveningwear and suits.

With retail expansion ostensibly on hold for a few years, the company continues to cite brand acquisition as a means to growth. Tansky said the company remains "very interested in expanding in brand holdings. We’re looking at a number of opportunities."

Neiman Marcus owns 51 percent and 56 percent stakes in the Laura Mercier and Kate Spade businesses, respectively.Spade’s business suffered declines in fiscal 2002 due to weakness in handbag sales, but Tansky said he believes a revamped collection will help recoup brand cachet."The collection is more diversified, with new fabrics, new looks, new ideas," he said. "Kate has done a terrific job in changing the feeling of the collection to move it forward."

As for Laura Mercier, Tansky said he has "no complaints. We’re very pleased. It’s been a strong run."

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