By LISA KLEIN
Despite many competitors falling prey to faceless online sales and empty stores, U.S. department store chain Neiman Marcus continues to put personal and in-person relationships with its customers first and foremost.
Still, the luxury retailer does not shy away from technology, simply adapting its customer service ethos for the 21st-century shopper.
“The merchandise that we carry, you may not be able to find anywhere else in Chicago or in the United States, you may have to go to Europe, but anything can be found somewhere,” said Wendy Krimins, vice president and general manager of Neiman Marcus’ Michigan Avenue store in Chicago, during Luxury Portfolio International’s 2021 Affluence Forum.
“What you can’t get is that relationship that we bring to the client,” she said. “And that is what the high-end client is really interested in and wants the most. That’s what makes the difference.”
The Dallas-based company’s ecommerce business has been steadily growing for years, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Retail has changed tremendously,” Ms. Krimins, who has worked in the industry for almost 40 years, said. “When I first started in retail there was no Internet.”
Neiman Marcus was a pioneer in online sales as the first luxury retailer to start an ecommerce site in 1999. Now it is hard to find a customer who does not shop online.
According to Ms. Krimins, many online shoppers are driven by promotions and special deals, while in-store shoppers are more interested in the products or services that they can get there.
Time-pressed affluent consumers tend to shop first online and then bring their ideas to Neiman Marcus stores for advice.
“Eighty percent of the customers who walk in the door have looked online first,” Ms. Krimins said. “That is how people shop today. They look everywhere – they look on our site, they look on Instagram, they look on other large sites. So they’re very knowledgeable, very aware of what is out there and what they want.”
Although parts of the Neiman Marcus experience have grown with the times, the store’s signature customer service remains the same.
“The world has changed,” Ms. Krimins said.
“A person can lay in bed and never leave and use their phone and order everything that they need,” she said. “But they’re not going to get that trusted advice that they need, and that’s what those who work here in the store are – those advisors.”
Clients receive personalized style advice from client advisors or personal stylists in the store, as well as the store’s spa treatments, alterations services and premium restaurant fare – all extras that affluent consumers still want and cannot get from a screen.
A “welcome point” has been added to the ground floor of every Neiman Marcus store as a place for clients to pick up online purchases, make returns, drop off garments for alterations and ask questions, all with a personal touch.
Some changes have been made to accommodate new habits, and technological savvy is a must.
Appointments with an advisor or stylist can be made via the retailer’s new mobile app launching soon.
Also, the store’s advisors are available online using a proprietary mobile system in which they can send clients information, new looks and product suggestions over the phone. They can also search for items in a global network instead of being stuck with the already vast selection in each store.
“We feel that it’s about the experience that a client has in store and so the stores are the most important part of our business,” Ms. Krimins said. “But we know that our clients are using their technology and so our associates have to be able to help their client any time, any way, any how the client wants.”
No matter how a Neiman Marcus client prefers to shop, she can count on the importance of her relationship with the store.
“We put the client first, and that’s where we stand out,” Ms. Krimins said. “It’s about the client’s experience. We are a trusted advisor and we do that better than anybody.”
For more about Neiman Marcus, and to see a Luxury Portfolio International photo shoot featuring looks from the store, please read the latest issue of Luxury Portfolio magazine.