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Neiman Marcus Brings Its CUSP Chain Under The Big Roof

A few years ago The Shophound visited the first Cusp store in Tysons Corner, Virginia to see if Neiman Marcus could take on the then burgeoning Barneys Co-op with its own self-generated contemporary chain. That was six years ago, and after five more locations were unveiled, expanding the concept to the Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles areas, the jury was still out on whether or not Neiman Marcus would roll the chain out aggressively or abandon it. There was always a sense that the retailer would eventually have to "go big or go home" with Cusp, and now we know that the concept will stay alive and expand nationally —but only within Neiman Marcus stores.
For now.

What seemed like it was being groomed as a Co-op Killer is now following the pattern of its rival chain in reverse as all of Neiman Marcus' women's contemporary departments will be revamped and renamed Cusp by the end of the year. New fixturing, decor and, in some stores, expansion of the departments to an average size of 8,000 square feet will be eimplemented to create a contrast with Neiman Marcus' cometitors in the category like Nordstrom, Bloomingdales and, most importantly, Saks Fifth Avenue. The strategy will also provide a different environment for the customer within the stores themselves that will be more relaxed and inviting to a younger customer who might be put off by the department store's typically opulent ambiance. “We really want this world to feel more like a boutique than what you might find in a large department store. It’s a much more hands-on approach to product presentation in the mixing of categories and classifications,” Jim Gold, president of specialty retail for the Neiman Marcus Group tells WWD. While no hard plans for freestanding Cusp boutiques are on the board at the moment, Gold suggests that once the concept has been fully established within Neiman Marcus stores, the company will have a better idea how to proceed with expanding it as a separate chain.

So will New York, a city that, even in the worst of times, seems to have an insatiable appetite for every sort of contemporary boutique no matter how much the same merchandise is replicated from door to door, get a Cusp of its own, eventually? We probably won't find out for a while, though it might be the only way that Neiman's could commercially enter the city without directly competing with its singular but highly significant sister store, Bergdorf Goodman. WWD speculates that the strengthening of cusp, along with the recent appointment of Josh Schulman as Bergdorf Goodman's president may be part of a strategy to burnish the Neiman Marcus Group in advance of a rumored public stock offering. That remains to be seen, but New Yorkers who want to check out Cusp for themselves will soon get a chance to at the Neiman Marcus stores that circle the city without actually entering it.

Neiman Marcus to Relaunch Cusp by David Moin (WWD)
Cusp (Official Site)

Neiman Marcus' Cusp Builds a Loft in the Mall (08/14/2006)


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