Richard Marcus, who served as chairman and chief executive officer of Neiman Marcus from 1979 to 1988 and was the son of the legendary Stanley Marcus, died Saturday at Austin Hospital in Texas. He was 84.
Richard Marcus spent 28 years at Neiman Marcus working in different capacities, including as store manager, executive vice president, president and vice chairman until succeeding his father as CEO.
The late Stanley Marcus was a true retail impresario, known to employees, designers and customers as ‘”Mr. Stanley,” so for Richard, taking over the reins of Neiman Marcus from his father was a tough act to follow. Yet Richard maintained much of the culture and traditions that his father had inculcated in the business, most importantly that the customer always came first. Neiman Marcus was founded in Dallas in 1907 by Stanley’s father and aunt, Herbert Marcus Sr., and Carrie Marcus Neiman, and her husband, Al Neiman.
“Richard was very smart, but he had a tough role taking over from his father. It wasn’t easy being the son of Stanley Marcus,” said Ron Frasch, who worked for Neiman’s from the early Eighties to the early Nineties and served as senior vice president and general merchandise manager. “Richard had big ideas, and at the same time he was very respectful of the business that he inherited and respectful of a lot of the little things, the details that made Neiman’s special. He even introduced email to the company and there was a time, he wouldn’t talk to you unless you emailed,” to encourage using it. “But it was all about the customer and Richard was obsessed with customers…He came from an era when department stores were dominant and brands were less dominant, and he managed along that way of thinking.”
“He was always so curious and interested in the arts and I loved sharing that with him,” said his niece, Allison V. Smith, a professional photographer who confirmed her uncle’s passing. “He was so cutting edge with gadgets and cameras,” Smith added. “As a young photographer, I learned so much from him. When I was in my 20s, he gave me his Rollei camera. We always shared that bond.”
“Richard had a firm grasp of the Neiman Marcus brand and his father’s heritage and he honored that,” said Philip Miller, who served as Neiman’s president in charge of merchandising, marketing and stores, while Marcus was vice chairman and later CEO, with responsibilities over finance, operations and human resources.
“Richard also had a strong influence on the growth of the business in the ’80s. He had a key role in store design, and there were a lot of store openings in that time,” said Miller, who went on to become CEO of Marshall Field’s and Saks Fifth Avenue.
“Richard was a very bright, inquisitive person, and very innovative in his thinking about the business,” said Karen Katz, who was CEO of Neiman Marcus from 2010 to 2018, who joined the company as a young executive during the last few years of Marcus’ tenure at the company. “While he was CEO, the Incircle program was launched, which was the very first retail loyalty program of any kind. And of course, Incircle customers became our most important customers and the program was copied everywhere.
“Long after Richard left Neiman Marcus, he and I stayed in close touch,” Katz added. “He was an investor in different innovative businesses and would call me to discuss their potential. Once he moved to Austin [Texas], he and I would have lunch annually. I always enjoyed our time together. He was always so curious, gave great insight and perspective on the business, and also had a great sense of humor.”
In 1988, Marcus was succeeded by Allen Questrom, who later served as CEO of Federated Department Stores, Barneys New York and J.C. Penney. “Richard was very well liked,” Questrom said. “His father was a major figure in the Neiman Marcus heritage. His father looked over the business even when he retired, so for Richard, he had big shoes to fill.”
Marcus’ departure marked the end of the official Marcus family affiliation with the Dallas-based luxury store. After leaving Neiman’s, Marcus, who was 50 at the time, remained active in the retail industry and served on the boards of Lands’ End, Michael’s Stores and Zale Corporation, which is now part of Signet Jewelers Ltd. Marcus also served as an adviser at PJ Solomon, and as a director of several retail technology-oriented companies including First Insight, XcelleNet, Novo, Tactica Technology Group and 7thOnline.
Marcus was a graduate of Harvard College and the Advanced Management Program of the Harvard Business School.
Immediate survivors include his wife, Susan Russell Marcus; his daughter Catherine Rose; son, Charles Marcus; his sister Jerrie; two stepdaughters, three grandsons and one granddaughter.