WWD.com/globe-news/department-stores/discover-a-new-way-to-pay-at-neiman-marcus-6093365/

It’s not the Visa Black Card. In fact, it’s the antithesis of that stylish piece of plastic and carbon that carries a $495 annual fee and is limited to only 1 percent of U.S. residents. The Discover Card, born of Sears Roebuck in 1986, is now accepted at 42 Neiman Marcus stores and Bergdorf Goodman, the financial services company said Friday. Card members can earn 5 percent cash back on all purchases made at the stores from October through December.

This story first appeared in the July 19, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“By adding Discover as another payment option, Neiman Marcus continues to give customers more flexibility and convenience at the point of sale,” said Jim Gold, president of specialty retail at The Neiman Marcus Group. “We are happy to open our Neiman Marcus stores to loyal Discover card members so they can shop their favorite brands and earn more rewards.”

There was a time when Neiman’s and Bergdorf’s would have eagerly embraced the Black Card as a form of payment. The Dallas-based retailer, which launched in 1907, began issuing signature charge cards in the Fifties and was elitist when it came to the forms of payment it accepted. Only in the Eighties did Neiman’s start taking American Express in addition to its own card. Visa and MasterCard only became welcome in stores nine months ago, although shoppers could use them online. Michael Canady, vice president of strategic merchant relations at Discover, said “Discover card members are actually some of the most affluent card holders in the industry.”

Still, it may come as a bit of a shock to those who consider Neiman’s credit cards as status symbols in and of themselves, gateways to the company’s In-Circle rewards program, where perks include first dibs on sales, free gift wrapping and the opportunity to purchase tantalizing trips and VIP experiences open only to members who spend between $10,000 and $599,999 annually. Neiman’s has been moving in a more affordable direction since Karen Katz became chief executive officer in 2010. Her predecessor, Burton Tansky, uncompromisingly toed the luxury line.

The luxury retailer struck up a partnership with mass merchant Target and is looking to make its stores more accessible to younger, less affluent shoppers. Neiman’s is rebranding contemporary departments in its stores as Cusp, after the freestanding boutiques it launched in 2006, boosting the lower-priced offerings in some locations by as much as 20 to 25 percent. A moderately priced outlet concept, Last Call Studio, stocked exclusively with cheaper product purchased directly for the chain, was developed.