BRAUN WILL HEAD GALLERIES FOR NEIMAN’S

Byline: Wendy Hessen

NEW YORK — Signaling its commitment to its neophyte Galleries of Neiman Marcus store concept, Neiman Marcus has named Tim Braun director of the three-unit chain.
Braun was most recently an associate divisional merchandise manager at Neiman’s main-line stores. He has been with Neiman’s since 1991, in a variety of management and buying posts focusing on its highly successful precious jewelry salons.
Prior to joining Neiman’s, Braun was a senior vice president at the fine jeweler Black, Starr & Frost. That experience was viewed as particularly important, according to Tom Lind, senior vice president and a director of stores for Neiman’s, who also oversees the Galleries.
“Tim brings a high level of experience with small specialty store environments, which is still new for us,” said Lind. “His experience at Black, Starr & Frost provided him with a basis of understanding of that type of business. He’s also very entrepreneurial and creative.”
The three Galleries units — in Cleveland’s Beachwood Place mall, Biltmore Fashion Park in Phoenix, and Westlake Center in Seattle — focus on designer and fine jewelry, fine watches, table top and decorative home items. The Cleveland location, the oldest of the three, has been open one year. While the concept seeks to capitalize on several departments that are among the main line store’s most lucrative, the Galleries has faced an uphill battle in attracting consumers.
“We clearly have a unique set of challenges,” said Lind. “When someone sees the Neiman Marcus name they have expectations that are in line with our main-line stores. When we’re in a new market, we have to go through a bit of a reeducation process in terms of what we’re bringing [with the Galleries], but in terms of overall reception, it’s no different than with any entry into a new market.
“We’re still in the pilot stage. We haven’t scaled back our optimism, and still view the Galleries as a growth concept in the long run. With all three stores open now, we felt it was an appropriate time to have more specific dedication to [the Galleries.]”
In March, Neiman’s chairman and chief executive officer, H.W. Mullins, said the Galleries concept would not be expanded until the three existing units attain higher levels of productivity.
“They have maintained momentum, but we think that running a mall [more specialized] store is very different from running a full-line store, and we have lots of skills to develop,” Mullins said at the time. “It’s different from a marketing standpoint, staffing standpoint and clientele standpoint. We think that even though they have done well, they have much greater potential. We want to assess whether or not we can get them to the levels of productivity that we would really like before we build any more.”
Lind said Braun will reevaluate some merchandise mixes within the dominant categories to better adjust to the needs of the clientele in each individual market and would likely focus on offering more dominant assortments with brands and vendors that have been the most successful.
For his part, Braun said, “The Galleries need to have more personality and become more of a destination for gift products. They also need to have a unique marketing and advertising concept. We want to be more innovative, launch new designers and new categories of jewelry.”
Among his other priorities will be an expansion of the Galleries gift registry and exploring the viability of tying in with Neiman’s Web site.
Braun will report to Lind in his new post. Steve Magner, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for precious jewelry, will assume Braun’s responsibilities in Neiman’s main line stores. As reported, Magner had also overseen the initial launch of the Galleries concept, but returned to his singular post in the main stores last November.

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