NEW YORK — It’s a good company. Don’t mess with it.
That was the general reaction of vendors and designers on Monday to the purchase of The Neiman Marcus Group Inc. by Texas Pacific Group and Warburg Pincus. While vendors generally reacted positively, they cautioned the new owners not to make any substantial changes in either Neiman’s operations or its management.
Mark Lee, president of Gucci, described Neiman Marcus as “an extremely important, long-standing partner for Gucci.”
“I am confident that today’s announced transaction will be positive for Neiman Marcus provided the current, outstanding management of Neiman Marcus remains in place and provided the character and quality of the immensely successful strategy implemented by Neiman Marcus over the last 15 years is not altered in any negative manner,” he continued.
Robert Chavez, president and chief executive officer of Hermès of Paris Inc., the French luxury firm’s American subsidiary, said he was heartened that Texas Pacific has holdings and experience in luxury.
“I’m sure they will continue to keep Neiman’s on the luxury track it’s been on for several years,” Chavez said. “Our most important relationships are with Burton Tansky and Karen Katz and we would hope to continue working with them hand in hand.”
Tansky is president and ceo of Neiman Marcus Group and Katz is president and ceo of its Neiman Marcus Stores division.
“In my opinion, the new owners will most likely retain the current management team, as they have been so successful,” said Tom Murry, president and chief operating officer at Calvin Klein Inc., who explained that the luxury sector trended well for several years and continues to perform. “Within that sector, Neiman Marcus has been executing well and I don’t anticipate any significant strategic changes if their performance and current trends continue.”
From family members of the company founders, reaction was a mixture of skepticism and pride as well as concern over the future of the retailer.
“It has always been presumed that this day would come, and one hopes that whoever succeeds the Smith family will be as good investors as they were,” said Richard Marcus, former president of Neiman Marcus and son of the late Stanley Marcus. “These companies can look at the legacy of what the Smith family accomplished. This company is in good shape and doing well, and I’m sure they want to keep it that way.”
Lawrence Marcus, a former senior vice president of the retailer and brother of the late Stanley, was more blunt. “I couldn’t care less who buys it,” he said. “It all depends on their decision in the future. Who will replace Mr. Tansky when he retires?….His heart is back in New York.”
Ralph Toledano, ceo at Chloé in Paris, said his main concerns were whether the new owners would change the management and whether they would continue to operate in the same way.
“Will they stay with the same philosophy of quality products and service, or will they want to milk the cow by cutting costs?” Toledano asked. But he characterized the fact TPG had been behind elevating the Bally brand as a “good sign.”
Alex Bolen, ceo of Oscar de la Renta, is taking a wait-and-see approach.
The designer’s business right now with Neiman Marcus is “tremendous,” he said. Bolen, who worked on Wall Street for 14 years before stepping on to Seventh Avenue, said he was “interested to see the details of what the leverage on the company looks like.”
He is hopeful that the capital expenditures earmarked for store renovations and advertising will continue. “I would hope that all the things Neiman’s has been doing really well will continue,” he said.
Jean-Marc Loubier, president and ceo of Celine in Paris, stressed that the funds “have bought an outstanding and valuable company, and we hope they will continue to consolidate and develop their expertise. We consider Neiman Marcus Group and its team as one of the best retailers in the world.”
Franco Pené, chairman of Gibò, which produces collections for Viktor & Rolf, Hussein Chalayan and Paul Smith, among others, and its own Gibò line, cautioned that “private equity funds as a mission need to make a capital gain, and quickly. They are not stable, long-term investors, but they will try to improve profitability or boost performance with the opening of new points of sale.”
Still, he said, “I’m convinced that this will not change anything for us as suppliers. In any case, this moment of changes is positive: Inactivity and conservatism never help. The retail world is ebullient all over the world, it’s undergoing huge transformations and it is not by chance that in almost all the deals private equity funds are involved, either as partners or buyers, as this is where the money is.”
Edgar Huber, president of the Luxury Products Division of L’Oréal USA, whose Giorgio Armani Cosmetics, Lancôme, Shu Uemura and Kiehl’s beauty brands are sold by the retailer, said he doesn’t expect to see much change with the new owners from an operational standpoint.
“I hope the current management will stay, and I believe that they will,” Huber added. “Because a financial group bought them, it’s extremely likely that they will want to keep the current management in place — running the day-to-day on a retail operation is a completely different business than what they do. And if the rumor that they will open more stores is true, that would be great. There is still a great deal of untapped potential in the luxury sector.”
Other vendors praised Neiman’s ability to reach consumers in the luxe market. “It’s exciting to see an established retail model like Neiman Marcus be taken to the next level,” said Martha Brady, general manager, Puig Prestige Beauty, North America, and president, Puig USA.
Designer Ralph Rucci has been selling his Chado Ralph Rucci collection to Neiman Marcus for more than a decade, and said, “I think it’s an extraordinary marriage. I have heard form the inside that [the new owners] will not get involved in the daily operations, because the daily operations are managed with perfection. They are going to provide the support so that Neiman Marcus can continue to grow in the manner that they have been.”
“I just hope nothing changes, but it sounds like it won’t,” Jan Schlottmann, Derek Lam’s ceo, said. “Neiman’s is a fantastic operation, and they are a very supportive account with the right knowledge of how to launch a new designer. They grow our business slowly and well, and [have been] very supportive since the beginning.”
Maggie Ciafardini, ceo and managing director of YSL Beauté in the U.S., said the sale of the retailer left her feeling hopeful.
“Neiman Marcus certainly knows their customers and is extremely focused and direct in their marketing strategies,” Ciafardini said. “I am optimistic that this transaction will not jeopardize their position as a leading retailer, but will give them the funding to become even stronger in the luxury arena.”