TANSKY AT THE TOP: NAMED CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF NEIMAN’S GROUP
Byline: Rusty Williamson
DALLAS — Burton M. Tanksy landed the big job Tuesday.
Tanksy was named chief executive officer of The Neiman Marcus Group Inc., effective May 15. He will succeed co-ceo’s Robert A. Smith and Brian J. Knez, who will become vice chairmen of the board.
Tansky’s appointment at NMG, which encompasses Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus Stores and NM Direct, the catalog and Internet division, will yield him considerable power within the luxury retail group’s hierarchy.
Tansky, who is 63, will continue as NMG’s president and chief operating officer and as the interim chairman and chief executive officer at Neiman Marcus Stores. He assumed the latter two positions at Neiman Marcus Stores in January with the departure of Hugh Mullins, who joined St. John Knits International as ceo.
“Burt has handled this responsibility before and we don’t feel pressured to make a decision within a certain time,” said Smith.
“Under his leadership as president and chief operating officer, each of the business units achieved record levels of financial performance last year,” said Knez. “Most importantly, Burt has a track record of success at every level of responsibility he has assumed at NMG. We have great confidence in his ability to continue to deliver superior results for shareholders in the future.”
Tansky will report to NMG’s board, of which he will also become a member. Richard Smith is chairman of NMG.
NMG also said that Paula Stern, president of The Stern Group Inc., an economic analysis and trade advisory firm, will also join its board. Stern is also former chairwoman of the U.S. International Trade Commission.
Tansky and Stern, along with Knez and Robert A. Smith, will assume their new posts at NMG in May when NMG relocates its headquarters from Chestnut Hill, Mass., to downtown Dallas, where Neiman Marcus Stores are based.
Tansky first joined NMG in 1989 as chairman and ceo of Bergdorf Goodman, where he faceted and fine tuned the store’s image as an echelon of ultraluxe fashion and elite service.
When he moved over to Neiman Marcus Stores as chairman and ceo in April 1994 after the departure of Terry Lundgren to Federated Department Stores, Tansky made it an immediate priority to spotlight expensive designer offerings and other luxury categories such as precious jewelry and accessories.
He directed merchandisers and visual and creative directors to stoke the Neiman’s image as a destination for unusual, exclusive high-ticket merchandise.
Tansky’s directive and mission to ensure that Neiman Marcus Stores stood out from the luxury retail competition has paid off: the chain has enjoyed several years of solid and often double-digit growth in sales.
Tansky oversaw Neiman’s ambitious expansion agenda that resulted in several new stores being built and the chain’s entrance into new territories such as Hawaii.
NMG said Tuesday that it is highly committed to its new-store building program and renovation and expansion program at established stores.
In August, Neiman Marcus will open a new store in Plano, Tex., replacing an older unit in Addison, Tex., and is planning a new store in Tampa, Fla.
Neiman’s has experimented with smaller, capsule versions stores called The Galleries of Neiman Marcus. There are currently three Galleries stores, including units in Cleveland and Scottsdale, Ariz.
The Galleries stores have met with limited success, and NMG officials said Tuesday that they continue to refine the merchandise mix in the three stores and are refining a business model to go forward with the concept.
The $2.14 billion Neiman Marcus Stores represents about 75 percent of NMG’s total business.
Tansky also played an integral role in Neiman’s acquisition of hot luxury brands Kate Spade accessories and Laura Mercier cosmetics and is rumored to be eyeing additional vendor brands.
Neiman Marcus Direct, the catalog and Internet division, recently said that it is continuing to bring its merchandising vision in line with the high-end designer focus at Neiman Marcus Stores.
The $364 million NMD continues to post record revenues and is in the midst of a revamp that includes a stronger accent on designer and contemporary fashion, an updated look that includes sophisticated photographer and high-caliber models, more expensive paper and a big emphasis on luxury e-tailing.
Neiman’s fledgling Internet business is enjoying strong sales and lots of hits thanks to luxury merchandise and unusual merchandising tactics, such as a virtual Manola Blahnik room that enables shoppers to browse as though in a real store. Depending on the time of day someone logs on, sunlight or moonbeams stream through windows.
Merchandising changes reflect a nod to Tansky’s designer vision at Neiman Marcus Stores.
“The designer focus (at NMD) is fairly new and we’re really pleased with the early results,” said Karen Katz, president and chief executive officer at Neiman Marcus Direct. “We’ll be featuring designer merchandise in more books going forward.”
As reported, NMG will terminate its intercompany services agreement with Harcourt General Inc. for management, accounting, financial, legal, tax and other corporate services. Harcourt General is expected to be sold in the first quarter.
Ron Frasch continues as chairman and chief executive officer at Bergdorf Goodman. Frasch and Katz report to Tansky in his current role as president and operating chief of NMG and they will continue to report to him as ceo of NMG.