Brooklyn Discount Diving Edition

19CRIT2-blog427Every now and then, our Critical Shoppers hit the discounters, and in today's Thursday Styles, Molly Young checks out the relatively new Neiman Marcus Last Call Studio, and it is clear that this is not her first time at this particular rodeo. For the uninitiated, Last Call Studio is a smaller, more condensed version of Neiman Marcus' larger, department store sized Last Call outlet stores. This new format is designed to be more easily inserted into urban shopping areas and suburban retail centers as opposed to being limited to dedicated outlet malls like Woodbury Commons and the like. It is the first Last Call store in New York city, but may not be the last, and not unlike Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus is following the unlikely pattern of entering New York city with its discount brand in advance of opening the full line store expected in the Hudson Yards development in a few years.
But back to the store itself, and out clearly experienced off-price shopper. Young notes that the luxury department store outlet chains like Last Call as well as Saks Off 5th (which is coming to the Financial District) and Nordstrom Rack (already here) has clobbered the old line off-pricers like Filene's Basement, Syms, Daffy's and the grande dame of them all, Loehmann's, literally out of existence. This has been at least partly achieved by creating a more pleasant shopping environment. "Loehmann’s stores were a mess, with jammed racks, communal dressing rooms (leave your dignity at the door) and salespeople who wore the ravaged masks of Goya subjects. Last Call Studio is 16,000 square feet of orderly displays and a smiling sales staff. Looks are everything," she writes, and its worth noting that the local survivor, Century 21, has thrived by expanding and upgrading its stores from cramped, dingy and messy to species, sleek, shiny and somewhat less messy.
But it's the merchandise that really makes the difference between a successful off-pricer and a collection of picked over goods. Shopper Young has an extensive list of what to consider purchasing and what to ignore, and it is very specific,

Stick to natural fibers and colors found in nature. Never buy anything with a peplum, a cow print or a notched V-neck. Avoid harem pants. Avoid fabrics that glow in the dark. Avoid jumpsuits unless you’re good at winning people over with your personality. Avoid anything eggplant-colored or printed with a pattern that causes physical distress. 

That's just the first half of the list, which are generally good guidelines, but seem pretty personal overall. In the spirit of fashion and self-expression, however,we would add that if you know you are the kind of person who can carry off harem pants —and though you are very rare, you exist and you know who you are— you should definitely go for it, off-price or not.

Critical Shopper: Cheap Thrills at Neiman Marcus’s Cut-Price Outlet Store By Molly Young (NYTimes)
Neiman Marcus Last Call Studio 210 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn


The Neiman Marcus Christmas Book For 2014 Has Arrived

Back in the olden days, when telephones were only connected to the wall and there were nothing but a meager four or five TV channels to watch, there was no internet to buy things with, but you could still shop from home with these books called catalogs. Department stores would send them out every season, and if you didn't live in a booming metropolis like New York where there is a vast choice of stores to shop in, you could still get a little bit of Saks, Bloomingdale's, Bergdorf's or even Bonwit Teller or Marshall Field's (yes, they used to exist, too) sent to your house periodically. Early to Mid-October used to be the time of year when the splendor of Christmas catalogs would start clogging the mailbox. Nowadays, most catalogs have either given way to e-commerce sites or been morphed into "magalogs" showcasing the store's merchandise with more editorial flair but without order forms, instead, encouraging readers to either go online or make a visit in person.

One catalog remains to draw attention, however, and that is the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book, an annual exercise in extravagance from America's most opulent department store chain. With Neiman's making plans to finally enter Manhattan, New Yorkers should get more acquainted with this curious compendium of the store's signature "Fantasy GIfts" and middle-of-the-road (for them anyway) gift items. Of course, even Neiman's has its monthly magalog, "The Book", which will have its own Holiday edition, but the Christmas Book is a product of NM Direct, the mail order division which explains why a $19,900 Akris ballgown is offered alongside a somewhat humbler $550 cocktail dress from better dress department mainstay Kay Unger. The Christmas Book even offers a $395 dress & jacket ensemble from Albert Nipon, a label we didn't even think existed anymore and is probably way below the opening price point to actually be found in Neiman Marcus stores, but the mail order catalogs from Neiman's were always a peculiarly inconsistent mix of status brands and comparatively downmarket merchandise.

But enough with the commercial offerings. What made the Christmas Book famous are the Fantasy Gifts, and this year they are as ridiculous as ever. There are ten of them (also available for online ordering) starting at the high end with a custom blended fragrance from the House of Creed for a whopping $475,000 (plus tax). It does come with a trip to Paris where you will personally take delivery, so there's that. For a little less, $425,000, you can travel to L.A. for three days to attend the Vanity Fair Oscar Party. Like most of the Fantasy Gifts, this one has a charity component. It includes a $400,000 donation to the The Heart of Neiman Marcus Foundation which is "dedicated to supporting youth arts education in communities across the country", although that equation really makes it a $400,000 donation that comes with a $25,000 trip to Hollywood. This one should really be mostly tax-deductible, but you and your accountant can take that up with the IRS. For the hopelessly immature, there's a $300,000 1:32 scale model of your favorite racetrack complete with speeding cars from The Slots Mods USA. For fans of actual life-sized automobiles, there are exactly 100 100th Anniversary Neiman Marcus Limited-Edition Maserati Ghibli S Q4s for $95,000 each. Then in other vehicles, there is the obligatory His & Hers gift: the matching Vilebrequin Quadskis, a pair of Jet Ski/ATV hybrids complete with GoPro cameras and a training trip to the Gibbs Test Facility in Florida. Then there's the Ultimate Mardi Gras Experience for Six Couples ($125,000), Preston Bailey Peacock Floral Sculptures ($25,000-$65,000), Leontine Linens Home Trousseasu ($55,000), Custom Locket and Trip with Monica Rich Kosann ($100,000) and the Tanqueray No. Ten Imperial Shaker by Jason Crawley ($35,000) for the flamboyant martini drinker.

No matter how crazy the gift, Neiman Marcus claims never to have offered one that didn't find a buyer, if not several. Since it is the 21st Century now, however, you don't have to be on Neiman's mailing list to receive the Christmas Book. Anyone with an internet connection can now read it page by page HERE online in flip-book form, and consider the Holiday Season officially kicked off.

Neiman Marcus, The 2014 Christmas Book (Official Site)


Neiman Marcus Plans
A 2018 Arrival In Manhattan

Here's an unlikely rumor that has turned out to be true.
Neiman Marcus has announced that it will open its first full line New York City store in in the Hudson Yards development on Manhattan's West Side in 2018 (see renderings above and below). The rumor was floated several months ago, but several factors made it seem unlikely. Most prominent among them was the potential competition for the Neiman Marcus Group-owned Bergdorf Goodman, the jewel in the company's crown. The main sticking point was a presumedly ironclad clause in Bergdorf's lease which forbade Neiman Marcus from opening a competing store in the city. Apparently, that obstacle has been overcome, and Neiman's is about to join a wave of new department stores hitting Manhattan in a few years with a sizable 250,000 square foot flagship. “Demographics show that the growth and population on the West Side and south west side of the city is growing much faster than other parts of the city. Our expectation is that it becomes a tourist destination with a good mix of  West Siders, people who also live downtown and international tourists,” Karen Katz, Neiman Marcus Group president and chief executive officer tells WWD. The store will provide an much sought after retail anchor for the massive development set to rise over the rail yards west of Penn Station. Along with the upcoming Neiman Marcus, the city is set to get a Nordstrom near Columbus Circle, a new Barneys re-opening in at least part of store's original Chelsea buildings, and rumors continue to swirl that Saks Fifth Avenue is thisclose to announcing a deal for a full line store in the financial district's Brookfield Place redevelopment. That would be four large new department stores in Manhattan before the end of the decade. If that seems like a lot of new retail, particularly at the high end, Katz and the other retail CEOs seem to think that between tourists and residents, there is still more spending to be done in Manhattan —even in neighborhoods with no history of luxury retailing at all.
Can you wait four years to see how it all pans out?

Neiman Marcus Headed to New York City (WWD)


Could Neiman Marcus Be Opening A Flagship In Manhattan?

Here's a rumor that comes with a healthy helping of built-in skepticism. The New York Post is reporting that Neiman Marcus is negotiating for a flagship sized store that would open in 2018 in the upcoming Hudson Yards development being in the West 30's. This would fly in the face of the chain's longtime policy of opening branches around New York City in New Jersey and Westchester, but never within Manhattan as to not directly compete with or cannibalize the huge business generated by sibling store Bergdorf Goodman. Conversely, Bergdorf's has not expanded beyond its Men's and Women's stores at 58th Street and Fifth Avenue because any U.S. city with expansion potential would already have at least one Neiman Marcus store already thriving. Why change that now? Neiman Marcus Group has new owners who will be anxious for a return on their investment, and the luxury market in New York has grown to the point where some might be convinced that there's enough business for both stores. There are breathless real estate "sources" who are salivating at the prospect of a 200,000 square foot Neiman Marcus flagship anchoring the Hudson Yards complex whose retail component has yet to fully take shape. Also, Nordstom is set to open its first Manhattan store in 2018, at 57th Street and Broadway which would add even more retail action on Manhattan's western half. There's just one thing...
Location, location location.
Bergdorf issues aside, is Neiman Marcus the type of company that would risk opening a costly flagship sized store on 10th Avenue in the West 30s where there is currently nothing, and where there has never been any kind of retail district to speak of? Common wisdom would say no, but stranger things have been known to happen.
Of course, we have heard many times from real estate sources about confirmed deals like Nordstrom at the former Drake Hotel site, or Barneys in the Meatpacking district that never materialized, so one newspaper report doesn't not necessarily make a signed deal. If this does happen, however, it could mean big changes not only for Neiman Marcus but also Bergdorf's. If NMG is willing to bring Neiman's to Manhattan, then it also might be considering finally expanding Bergdorf's into other cities. Or not. Who knows? Stay tuned to see how, or even if, this story develops.

Neiman eyes Hudson Yards for 1st NYC store (NYPost)



Target + Neiman Marcus
Has Officially Tanked

It has not been a good season for two of retail's leading purveyors of otherwise wildly successful designer collaborations. First, H&M's Maison Martin Margiela collection flew way over the heads of the fast fashion chain's typically receptive customers, and now Target's heavily publicized team-up with luxury bastion Neiman Marcus has been deemed a disaster. Weeks after both stores' executives assumed that the multi-designer collection would have long since sold out, it remains available in stores and online marked way, way down. According to's detailed assessment, the collection of "affordable" Holiday gifts created by designers who sell to Neiman's was on the whole too expensive for Target's customers, and too cheap for the Neiman Marcus shopper. Poor reviews from influential bloggers didn't help either. Though the various items reportedly sold somewhat better at Neiman's stores, there are only 42 of those versus over 1,700 Target locations. Other complaints included quality issues, and the fact that most of the fashion designers who participated did not actually make clothes. The few who did, did not find success, as Target's customers were not inspired, for example, by Thom Browne's schoolboy jackets for men and women at $149.99.

There's good news, though, if you did want that jacket. You can now get it at (and reportedly at stores as well) for a mere $44.99, along with the rest of the collection also marked down by 70% -leaving much of it under $20. Target prices at last! Neiman's has also marked down the collection on its website (pictured below), but only by 50%.

When the surprising collaboration was announced earlier last year, both stores admitted that it was an offbeat idea, but they wanted to see what would happen if they teamed up.
Well, now they know, so don't expect to see this kind of thing happen again too soon. Of course, this isn't the end of designer collaborations by a long shot. Target has hot designer Prabal Gurung on deck for an 80-piece collection launching on February, with likely hopes that reverting to its tried and true formula of a collaboration with an exclusive up-and-comer will erase the recent memory of the Holiday season stumble. H&M, still clearing out of esoteric Margiela line, has already said it will take a brief break from it's "guest designer" series, so don't expect a seasonal follow up to last Spring's successful Marni line, but you can bet they are working on something for next Fall with more commercial potential. Neiman Marcus, for it's part has hopefully learned that there's not much need to do popularly collaboration lines when they have stores stocked full of designers' original collections. Now they can return to sitting back and letting Target and H&M publicize the young designers whose pricey main labels they can sell at full price.

Epic Retail Fail: Where Did the Target + Neiman Marcus Collection Go Wrong? By Martha C. White ( via The Cut)

Maison Martin Margiela with H&M Is Now On Sale Big Time



Neiman Marcus Teams Up For A Holiday Surprise With ...Target?

We don't think anyone saw this one coming.
Neiman Marcus, America's ultimate luxury department store chain, has joined forces with Target, the most stylish mass-market chain, and 24 card carrying CFDA member designers to create an exclusive collection of over 50 exclusive Holiday gift items that will go on sale at both companies' stores, which includes 1,763 Target stores and the 42 Neiman Marcus stores as well as their websites, on December 1st. The designers (pictured below in tiny form) include: Alice + Olivia, Altuzarra, Band of Outsiders, Brian Atwood, Carolina Herrera, Derek Lam, Diane von Furstenberg, Eddie Borgo, Jason Wu, Judith Leiber, Lela Rose, Marchesa, Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, Philip Crangi, Prabal Gurung, Proenza Schouler, Rag & Bone, Robert Rodriguez, Rodarte, Skaist-Taylor, Thom Browne, Tory Burch and Tracy Reese. You must have a favorite in there somewhere. Each designer created between one and three items, and prices will range from $7.99 to $499.99, with most items coming in under $60. Proenza Schouler, Rodarte and Jason Wu will be returning to Target after having done collaborations there in the past.

Neiman-target-logoThe unlikely collaboration seems to have come about from a mutual admiration of both retailers, and a desire to work together in some way. This project is unconnected to the "Shops at Target" retailer collaboration program which launched this past Spring with specialty retailers, and will include hometown favorites Kirna Zabête and Odin this Fall. Instead, the event evolved from much brainstorming from both parties to figure out a way for the companies to collaborate in a way that would not be inconsistent with either store's image or usual offerings. While Target has done exclusive collections in the past with designers that are carried at Neiman Marcus such as Proenza Schouler or Missoni, Neiman's has typically avoided associations with mass retailers. When asked if the partnership would diminish her store's prestige, Neiman Marcus Chairman Karen Katz told WWD, “We don’t think so. The product and the design is so terrific. For Neiman Marcus, it’s so unexpected,” adding, “Most of our customers buy something at Target, maybe detergent, but this is fun and unique. We hope it brings a smile to our customer’s faces.” The collaboration also accompanies a $1 million donation by both companies to the CFDA "to celebrate the partnership and affirm their continual support the American design community" according to the Neiman Marcus blog.

Exactly what will be included in the product offerings has yet to be announced beyond the hints that some designers will be working well within their usual, expected categories while others have taken the opportunity to experiment in categories like sporting goods, home decor, pet accessories or electronics accessories. Materials will range from real leather and silk to hand beading to hand-blown glass and 18K gold, but those are the only details that have been released so far. Both stores will merchandise the collection in a single shop concept rather than distributing the items throughout the stores. The retailers chose to release the collaboration a few days after Black Friday to avoid it getting lost in the holiday shopping kickoff which, particularly at Target, is more focused on bargains and discounts. Even so, the merchandise is expected to last in stores only for a few of weeks at best, and possibly only a few days if the project gets a response as strong as last year's website crashing Missoni collaboration, so get ready to make your lists as soon as more details are announced. It's going to be a Masstige Christmas.

Neiman Marcus, Target Team in Daring Designer Deal (WWD)
Little Black Book of Designers: Target + Neiman Marcus Holiday Collection (A Bullseye View/Target Blog)
Neiman Marcus + Target! This is Actually Happening (NM Daily)


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)


Neiman's and Bergdorf's Name
Matt Singer To Men's Fashion Post

MattsingerNeiman Marcus Group filled a conspicuously empty menswear post today by naming Matthew Singer (pictured right) men's fashion director for both Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman stores. Name not familiar? A google image search shows that he's not quite the internet icon that his predecessor Nick Wooster has become, but he is apparently not quite the same kind of individualistic dresser, and coming from Bloomingdale's, he has had a relatively smaller position in the higher-end Men's market than he will have at Neiman's and Bergdorf's. Singer will be arriving at one of the country's largest and most influential men's luxury retailers in Neiman's, and one of it's most exclusive at Bergdorf's where he will help oversee a major renovation of the Men's Store that is already taking shape with a big new Lanvin boutique and the long awaited return of Prada with an even bigger one.

Singer has been appointed just in time for the Fall 2012 Men's shows in Milan and Paris which begin next week. That should give him just enough of a chance to get a few flashy new duds so Tommy Ton and all the other street photogs can learn his name.

Neiman Marcus Names Matthew Singer Men’s Fashion Director (WWD)


Neiman Marcus & Bergdorf Goodman Lose Their Men's Fashion Director

Nickelson Wooster abruptly left his post last week as Men's fashion Director for Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. As far as we know, he is the first person to hold the responsibilities for both divisions of Neiman Marcus Group (Roopal Patel, a fellow Bergdorf veteran continues to hold the women's counterpart post).  Wooster's history with NMG goes back over two decades to when he was buyer for the most advanced Men's Designer Collections at the opening of Bergdorf Goodman's Men's store. He returned to the company a few years ago after having held posts at Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, among other companies and, most prominently, as president of John Bartlett from 1996 to 2001. Since returning to NMG, Wooster has also become a favorite of style bloggers like Tommy Ton, and his distinctive personal style has been chronicled exhaustively during fashion weeks.

There are no rumors about trouble between Wooster and NMG, and a lot of people are curious about what his next move will be. Wooster has made no comment about his departure, but the most recent entry on his Tumblr (pictured below) should give anyone who is wondering a pretty good picture of his current state of mind.


Nick Wooster Departs Neiman’s (WWD)

Holiday Previews:

If It's October
It Must Be Christmas

Nmchristmascover Perhaps no other retailer has been more skilled at weathering tough times than Neiman Marcus. In an example of the worst possible timing, the Texas Luxury chain releases its 2008 Christmas Book this week.
As usual, the Christmas catalogs come out waaay before anyone is really ready for Holiday shopping, but, especially this year, stores need as much time as they can possibly get to sell all that special holiday-themed merchandise, because come December 26th it's markdown time.
Nmchristmaslego In a strategy that paradoxically seems to work for Neiman's during challenging economic times, the store made its catalog more luxurious than ever, moving its $100 gift sections to their own separate catalogs, so as not to distract from this year's fanrtasy gifts.
Famed for it's practically absurd extravagances, this year's book includes, among other bagatelles, a $1.3 million wedding package, His and Hers life-size replica portrait sculptures rendered in LEGO® for a mere $60,000, A Jack Nicklaus designed golf course starting at $1 million (you provide the real estate), and topping out at $10 million, you get a thoroughbred racehorse farm created for you by Three Chimneys Farm home to, "some of racing's winningest thoroughbreds," including history's only undefeated triple crown winner, Seattle Slew.
That's all in addition to the usual array of designer gowns, furs and jewels, jewels, jewels.
It's the kind of oddly comforting optimism that we need right about now.
Neiman Marcus 2008 Christmas Book (Official Site)
See the video press release after the jump-

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If It's October
It Must Be Christmas
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