Neiman Marcus President and CEO Karen Katz is taking the long view in building her luxury department store chain.
Undaunted by a slowdown in luxury spending in recent months that has buffeted her chain, as well as HBC’s (HBC) Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom, (JWN) the retailer is set this weekend to open its 42nd namesake department store. The latest addition will be on Long Island at the upscale Roosevelt Field Mall, a Simon Property Group (SPG) location.
Given its slumping sales (likely crimping its plans to get listed on the stock market)—Neiman’s comparable sales in its most recent quarter fell 5.6%—it may seem risky for a retailer that already does brisk business online to open another brick-and-mortar store. But Neiman—which collects 27% of its sales online, making it an e-commere leader in its peer group—has found that one can’t go without the other.
“There is no question our customer and the next generation want both experiences,” Katz says in an interview with Fortune. “They want the two channels to be completely interactive.”
So, the Neiman in Garden City, Long Island, the retailer’s first new department store since 2012, is pulling out all the stops. At 106,000 square feet, the two-level emporium is smaller than the average Neiman. But the location features a ton of natural light (something Neiman admits some of its stores lack), 37 works by local artists, and prominent tech.
In addition to mainstays like WiFi and iPhone-equipped sales staff (that are used for “clienteling,” like texting a photo of a new item the salesperson thinks might be of interest, the modern day version of the little black book), the Neiman store will have phone charging stations and memory mirrors by MemoMi. Such mirrors can capture an image and video of everything a customer tries on so she can see outfits side by side and ask friends off site for their opinions.
The 2,100-panel façade of the store, part of a new luxury wing built by Simon that also showcases a Tory Burch boutique, is meant to evoke the butterflies Neiman often uses in its imagery. The store will feature boutiques for brands like Tom Ford and Céline.
Neiman knows its stores have to be more special than ever to cut it with shoppers. After all, there is a Nordstrom and a Bloomingdale’s (a unit of Macy’s (M)) at Roosevelt Field for shoppers who want high end if not quite luxury. (Neiman finished a massive renovation of its Michigan Avenue store in Chicago last year and is doing the same at its stores in Palo Alto, Dallas, and Beverly Hills.)
And on that front, Neiman sees Long Island as virgin territory. While there is a Saks on Long Island a few miles away, the only true luxury mall on Long Island, Americana in Manhasset, does not have a department store. (Roosevelt Field runs the gamut—another anchor tenant is J.C. Penney (JCP))
What’s more, Nassau County, where Roosevelt Field is located, is one of the most affluent parts of the U.S.: the median household income there in 2014 was about $96,000, almost double the national average of some $54,000. It is teeming with wealthy New York suburbanites who might want luxury shopping closer to home.
“We believe Long Island is underserved in terms of luxury,” says Katz. “We have wanted a Long Island store for 16 years now,” she adds.
The Roosevelt Field store, Neiman’s fourth full-service department store in the New York metro area, is far enough from its other stores (one in Westchester Country, north of New York, the other two in Northern New Jersey) to assuage fears of cannibalization. (Neiman will open its first Manhattan store in 2018.)
Katz lived through the 2008-09 luxury depression and has seen the strong U.S. dollar keep international tourists at bay before. So she remains bullish long term on Neiman’s prospects in New York and beyond.
“We remain very enthusiastic for our plans for the New York metro area,” she says.