Neiman Marcus just gave its famed Rotunda in San Francisco a run for its money, thanks to Europe’s Smartech electronics purveyor.
The Rotunda, a beautiful domed space within the department store known for its posh lunches and afternoon teas, has been a unique draw for Neiman Marcus. Now the company has another compelling section to tempt customers: a luxe consumer technology lineup spanning high-end wearables, premium beauty and personal-care devices and other gadgets — even a smart oven set up to crisp parmesan frico with roasted tomatoes.
At a press event in the store on Tuesday night, Neiman Marcus employees, Smartech staffers and representatives from each of the brands showcased the wares and offered demos to reporters.
The partnership relies on a concession-lease framework, which means the tech merchant operates like its own functioning store within Neiman’s. Todd Hoyles, Neiman Marcus’ general manager in San Francisco, sees it as an opportunity to provide “another unique, new experience for our customer,” he told WWD.
Set in a central space on the first floor covering some 500 square feet, the tech products come courtesy of Smartech, an Amsterdam-based company that scours and sources start-up offerings and established brands to “cherry-pick” a curated selection of technology.
The firm partners with retailers like London’s Selfridges, Zurich’s Jelmoli, Copenhagen’s Magasin du Nord and other places.
Now, Neiman’s has joined the ranks. After first setting up a temporary pop-up for Smartech in its New York Hudson Yards location, the department store saw fit to give the gadget seller a permanent home in its Bay Area flagship, making it Neiman’s first proper Smartech installation in the U.S.
According to Hoyles, reception from patrons has been positive, and although it’s early, he’s certain that it will boost business. “I definitely think it will cause more foot traffic, more engagement and keep our customers in the store longer, which we all want,” he said.
It’s easy to see how the products can enchant consumers, with a diverse range of categories. In one lap around the department, standouts featured Gillette Labs’ $200 Heated Razor, a Brava smart oven priced at over $1,000, Snapchat’s $380 Spectacles 3, $400 Nuraphone headphones capable of personalizing sound profiles to individual owners and a $498 skin-care tool from beauty start-up La Luer, which promises to detox, tone, lift and infuse to take users through a typical facial process in just a few minutes. And that’s just for starters.
The selection ranges from buzzworthy tech to unique offerings that the average Neiman Marcus shopper may not have heard of — like the Skyroam hotspot that works around the world and can also charge dead phones. Or the wood, metal and glass coffee station that ensures a drip. Or the high-end electric scooters and mini selfie drone. Or the bone-conduction wearable ring that can transmit phone audio when users touch their finger to their cheekbone. The list goes on.
While the press event took place on Tuesday night, Hoyles told WWD that Smartech has actually been in place for a couple of weeks, making the early entry something of a soft launch.
Call it great timing, because that means the new tech department was firmly in place ahead of the Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday weekend.
What those shoppers found, Hoyles hopes, is a reason to be delighted and come back through the season and beyond.
“I think it is about an element of surprise. ‘Wow, I didn’t know this was here. This is cool! This is interesting! I didn’t expect this,’” he said. “And I think part of it is that our customers identify with a lot of these products. A lot of these products are from the Bay Area, too, and a lot of technology companies are based here, which is fabulous as well. So it also attracts a new and younger customer to certainly embrace here in the market.”