NEIMAN’S BIG BOOK PLANS
Byline: Rusty Williamson
DALLAS — Neiman Marcus Direct, the catalog and e-tail division of the Neiman Marcus Group here, is on a roll.
The $364 million company posted record revenues in fiscal 2000, which ended last July. And company executives are planning stronger results this year. Revenues have grown by $80 million since 1998, the time when NMD announced plans to overhaul its catalogs with a new look and more aggressive marketing plans.
Since then, Neiman’s has redesigned its catalogs, beefed up designer and contemporary offerings and launched a Web site, among other changes.
For fiscal 2001, which commenced last August, NMD has had monthly comp-sales gains ranging from 6.1 to 10.9 percent.
And its Internet business in December tripled against a year ago.
Now, NMD is taking a more proactive approach to courting trend-conscious shoppers.
In its spring books, Neiman’s is literally spelling out the season’s top trends in a new creative strategy that’s patterned after breaking-news bulletins.
“Trend: Lady. Fashion Takes a Lesson in Refinement,” reads the headline inside a new Neiman’s catalog. The copy is backed by a sleek, geometric turquoise-hued fashion spread featuring floral, ladylike dresses by Jean Paul Gaultier and St. John by Marie Gray.
Other spreads pay homage to designer logos, bare dressing and the color yellow.
Neiman’s plans to create more than 60 signature fashion books this year, substantially higher than last year.
As evidenced by the spring batch, the Neiman’s catalogs are quick, slick guides for consumers with more disposable income than time and who like fashion guidance.
Karen Katz, president and chief executive officer at NMD, called the company’s growth plan this year “much more aggressive than last year,” though she wouldn’t cite numbers.
NMD is in the midst of an evolving merchandising approach that aims to polish its catalogs’ images with higher quality paper, beauty insert sampling and more sophisticated and thoughtful fashion spreads that include high-caliber models and photographers.
NMD also wants to be more closely aligned with Neiman Marcus Stores in the eyes of consumers. As a result, the trend-driven merchandising strategy is also being mirrored inside Neiman Marcus Stores and on its popular Web site, where sales have tripled in the last year.
“A couple of years ago our catalog division was going down a separate path. Now our goal is to be better aligned with Neiman Marcus Stores and to make sure that customers know that there’s a real harmony and congruency among our three shopping channels: stores, catalog and Internet,” explained Katz.
Katz, who has been on the job less than a year after jumping from Neiman Marcus Stores, has spent most of her retailing career at Neiman’s, lastly as executive vice president of Neiman Marcus Stores. Katz reports to Burton Tansky, chairman of Neiman Marcus Group.
Other merchandising changes at NMD include an intensified focus on designer and contemporary fashion, Katz added. “The designer focus is fairly new, and we’re really pleased with early results. We got into it about a year ago, but we’ve really intensified it since fall. We’ll be featuring designer merchandise in more books going forward, including apparel and accessories and shoes.”
The designer catalog initiative mirrors merchandising tactics at Neiman Marcus Stores, Katz noted, again reinforcing the three-channels, three-choices approach to retailing that Neiman’s executives have said is paramount to growth.
“The stores have been pursuing the fine apparel strategy for years, but the mail order hadn’t gone after it in a sizable way except for in our Christmas books.”
NMD plans to mail out 75 million catalogs this year, considerably more than last year, according to Katz.
In a bid to build its Internet business, Neiman’s is now tagging the front of its catalogs with its Web address: neimanmarcus.com.
Neimanmarcus.com features a number of technological innovations, including a virtual Manolo Blahnik store in which visitors can browse much like in a real store.
Katz said NMD’s creative team has a sterling record when it comes to discovering new talent.
“It’s really kind of remarkable the number of famous women who had their start in the Neiman Marcus catalog over the last 20 or 30 years,” she reflected.
Perusing through Neiman’s catalog archive, one finds 16-year-old Jerry Hall in 1975, around the time she was discovered by illustrator Antonio Lopez strutting her stuff on the beach in Saint-Tropez, France; 14-year-old budding model Bridget Hall in 1994’s Christmas Book; and freckle-faced Patti Hansen in 1973’s Christmas Book, 11 years before she would marry Rolling Stone Keith Richards.