Darcy Penick, the chief executive officer of Shopbop, will become president of Bergdorf Goodman on Sept. 4, WWD has learned.
Penick’s appointment is a clear sign that Bergdorf’s parent company, the Neiman Marcus Group, sees opportunity to accelerate digital growth at Bergdorf’s and its other divisions through its ongoing “digital first” initiative.
While tackling Bergdorf’s marks Penick’s first time at the helm of a retailer, she did compile a strong track record at Shopbop, the Amazon-owned fashion web site where she steadily rose up the ranks. Earlier in her career, Penick held buying and managerial jobs at Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf’s, and Neiman Marcus where she started her career in the executive training program.
“The vision is to leverage Bergdorf’s iconic real estate — the incredible magic inside the store — and replicate that online,” Geoffroy van Raemdonck, ceo of the Neiman Marcus Group, told WWD.
“Consumer engagement is the way to grow. Digital engagement will accelerate growth in the stores and online.”
Van Raemdonck, without specifying, said the volume of bg.com “is in line with department store penetration,” which is generally from 10 to more than 20 percent. “Given that we have only two Bergdorf Goodman stores, it could grow much further. The penetration should be bigger than Neiman Marcus, given Bergdorf’s (smaller) footprint. We don’t break it out, but it’s very healthy.”
According to officials, NMG and Bergdorf’s have experienced three quarters of positive gains, including double-digit growth online.
NMG’s online sales, consisting of neimanmarcus.com, bg.com, Horchow.com, lastcall.com and Mytheresa.com, account for more than 35 percent, or $1.5 billion, of NMG’s total sales of $4.7 billion in the last fiscal year. “We could quickly get to 40 percent,” Van Raemdonck said recently. Longer term, “I can imagine that the balance will be 50-50.” BG.com is estimated to account for less than 30 percent of Bergdorf’s total sales.
Penick, who will report to van Raemdonck, succeeds Joshua Schulman, who left about a year ago to join Coach. Since then, Jim Gold, president and chief merchandising officer of Neiman Marcus, has been filling in at Bergdorf’s.
“Literally, when I met Darcy in the spring, I knew right away she would be a perfect fit,” van Raemdonck said. “She’s a forward thinker. She has broad experience growing and building digital businesses. That is key for our growth strategy at the Neiman Marcus Group and specifically, for Bergdorf Goodman.”
“I started my career at Neiman Marcus and transitioned to Bergdorf Goodman,” Penick told WWD. “Being president is a bit like coming home for me. It’s a beautiful place to work.” She characterized bg.com as “still relatively nascent” with an opportunity to “touch a broader audience.”
Penick marks van Raemdonck’s second senior-level appointment since he succeeded Karen Katz as ceo in February. In April, he named Adam Orvos chief financial officer.
“For me, it is really critical to build a high-performing executive team,” said van Raemdonck. “It’s all about raw talent and performance. And when you look at Darcy, you see she has this incredible track record at Shopbop. She was promoted among her peers. She has an inclusive leadership style and the ability to galvanize a team to a key objective.”
Though associated with the dot.com world, Penick has “a very well-rounded, general management skill set,” van Raemdonck said, adding, “I see her role as much broader than a merchant’s, as someone who can engage the consumer and figure out the technology needed online to create an incredible customer journey,” from browsing to buying to post-purchasing communications. “She has a great marketing mind and can develop engaging customer experiences.”
Van Raemdonck and Penick will develop a growth plan for Bergdorf’s, finessing and building off the successes of the “BG 2020” strategy Schulman developed and implemented beginning in 2015, entailing growing bg.com and major renovations, including forming the “Modernist Collections” on six with The Row as the anchor; a reconfigured main floor to firmly delineate fine jewelry as a “store within a store” and “a grand hall” for leather goods off the Fifth Avenue entrance with designer salons extending back and north to the 58th Street entrance. The Bergdorf’s women’s store is housed in an elegant nine-story Beaux Art emporium opened in 1928, though the company was founded in 1901 on Fifth Avenue and 19th Street.
Recent changes suggest that Bergdorf’s is willing to take more risks and project an edgier, some might say younger, spirit. Last year, a “Linda’s at Bergdorf Goodman” shop on the fourth floor opened. It’s personally curated by Linda Fargo, Bergdorf’s senior vice president, women’s fashion director and store presentation, and filled with ready-to-wear, accessories, curios, vintage pieces, decorative home pieces, beauty products, edibles, books and art, much of it straight out of Fargo’s closets in her Sutton Place apartment and all of it reflecting her flamboyant style.
Just two weeks ago, the cafe by beauty on the lower level was transformed to the “Palette at BG,” a splashy, Pop Art-inspired restaurant, designed by New Orleans artist Ashley Longshore, with embellished vinyl chairs and touches of whimsy like the sign “There’s No Crying at Bergdorf Goodman.” The ambience is a world apart from the chic BG Restaurant on seven.
Asked if Bergdorf’s was trying to project a more youthful image, van Raemdonck said the target audience remains “a true luxury customer looking for the finest product and experience. Every time we have a concept like the Linda shop, a pop-up, or an exhibition on the selling floor, we see real interest in what’s curated or experiential. It’s not a specific age.”
Bergdorf’s previously disclosed that the women’s store would expand by 25,000 square feet by converting what was office space on eight and nine to selling space. “We are not ready to speak to any specific plans,” van Raemdonck said.
Sources have said that one of Bergdorf’s long-term goals is to crack $1 billion in annual sales. It’s well under that, at around $800 million in sales.
A few years ago, most of the buying of bg.com was transferred from Neiman Marcus Direct buyers, based in Dallas, to Bergdorf’s store buyers in New York. Most categories, including fine apparel, handbags and shoes, are now being merchandised by Bergdorf’s store buyers.
Asked if bg.com needs to differentiate more from neimanmarcus.com, van Raemdonck replied, “For me, it’s not about differentiating one from the other. It’s about doing what most is relevant for the brand and the consumers. We want to have the most curated offering for Bergdorf Goodman and really play to the strength of being able to identify the best brands, the best emerging brands and curate the best part of the assortment of the established brands.”
Bergdorf’s has been aggressive in social media and special events. Instagram selected Bergdorf’s as a beta partner on the launch of IGTV, a new Instagram app that features extended video content. Bergdorf’s created a video titled “Breaking Into Bergdorf’s,” directed by Lucas Flores Piran, featuring two models in the Palette restaurant.
Yet the perception is that there is catching up to do with business online. The web site was launched in 2004 and began international shipping in 2015 after a pilot program through Borderfree, which helps retailers price their products online in different currencies with payment processing and other aspects of international shipping.
The Neiman Marcus Group has been “rearchitecting” neimanmarcus.com and the platform will be completed next month. A recasting of the bg.com platform will be completed later this year. Recasting the platforms entails adding more content to the sites, increasing the personalization and improving the navigation and the visuals. “It allows us to touch any part of the web site to make the experience stronger,” van Raemdonck said.
“We don’t look at bg.com as a selling platform. We are looking at it as an ‘experience platform’ much broader than the buying online. To me, that is the future of the digital, but if someone wants to buy online, that is definitely available.”
A graduate of Wellesley College where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in peace and justice studies, Penick started her career by joining the executive training program at Neiman Marcus in 2000. She held various merchandising and managerial roles across multiple categories at Neiman’s and Bergdorf’s, including serving as a department manager in contemporary for Neiman’s in Coral Gables, Fla., and opening Bergdorf’s fifth-floor contemporary department. While at Saks Fifth Avenue, she was a key part of the team that launched the successful 10022-Shoe concept.
In 2009, she joined Shopbop as divisional merchandise manager and was appointed chief merchandising officer within four years. In 2016, she was promoted to ceo. “I joined Shopbop at a really exciting time, at a nascent stage post acquisition by Amazon. I really felt like I was getting in on the ground floor and building such a young brand, entirely focused on the online experience. It was really exciting.…I was afforded great opportunities to get my hands in more and more aspects of the business, and I was learning more and more about digital. I felt passionate about leading larger teams, and driving more of an end-to-end strategy of the business, involved in buying, planning, creative and marketing, and for the last several years having overseen the entire business, making sure that we were driving a brand-right experience end to end. I had a fantastic experience there.”
“I have a bit of time off this summer which is quite lovely, but I am eager to get started,” said Penick, who lives in Williamsburg in Brooklyn, N.Y., with her partner Josh.
As president of Bergdorf’s and one of the few women running a major retail operation considered one of the world’s most fashionable emporiums, Penick’s personal style won’t go unnoticed. “There tends to be a little bit of the tomboy aesthetic in me. I kind of dress my mood — a little bit different day-to-day,” Penick said. “I really love to embrace and try new things every season. I’m a fashion chameleon, not a uniform dresser.”