American retail store
Opened: in Dallas in 1907. Company History: Ready-to-wear retailer was established by Herbert Marcus, Carrie Marcus Neiman, and Abraham Lincoln (Al) Neiman. Through Herbert, his son Stanley, and grandson Richard, management remained in the Marcus family over 80 years. Over the years many events and activities were established and became part of the fabric of contemporary fashion. Originally known for excellent service and unique merchandise, the company struggled to redefine itself under new ownership. Company Address: 1618 Main Street, Dallas, TX 75201. Company Website: www.neimanmarcus.com .
On NEIMAN MARCUS:
Marcus, Stanley, Minding the Store, Boston, 1974; reissued, 2001.
——, Quest for the Best, New York, 1979, reissued 2001.
——, His & Hers: The Fantasy World of the Neiman Marcus Christmas Catalogue, New York, 1982.
Farmer, David, Stanley Marcus: A Life with Books, Fort Worth, TX, 1993.
Marcus, Stanley, The Viewpoints of Stanley Marcus: A Ten-Year Perspective, 1995.
Wilson, Robert A. and Stanley Marcus, eds., American Greats, 2000.
Marcus, Stanley, "My Biggest Mistake," in Inc., July 1999.
"Not Nearly Shelved at 94 (Stanley Marcus)," in the New York Times, 22 August 1999.
"Who's News: Neiman Marcus Group Inc.," in the Wall Street Journal, 26 June 2001.
A&E Biography Series (Arts and Entertainment Channel television series), Neiman Marcus: Last of the Merchant Kings.
Pacer, Eric, "Stanley Marcus, the Retailer, is Dead at 96," in the New York Times, 23 January 2002.
There is never a good sale for Neiman Marcus unless it's a good buy for the customer.
As one of only a handful of luxury retailers in the United States, Neiman Marcus is perhaps best known for their extravagant Christmas catalogue. Featuring annual his and her gifts of great imagination, several of these improbable items have actually sold. Since the first Christmas catalogue in 1939, Neiman Marcus has offered his and her Beechcraft planes (selling hers to a Texas rancher for his wife; he already had one), Chinese junks, eight of which were delivered to five different bodies of water, matching buffalo, and a female camel.
Herbert Marcus was a buyer of boys' clothing for Sanger Brothers in Dallas, while his sister, Carrie Marcus Neiman, was a blouse buyer and saleswoman for A. Harris and Company. Carrie's husband, Abraham Lincoln (Al) Neiman, persuaded the pair to accompany him to Atlanta to set up a special events business. After two years of success, the trio had a couple of offers to buy their business, one for $25,000 cash and another for a franchise in a new company. American retail would have been very different had they chosen the Coca Cola franchise.
They returned to Dallas and on 10 September 1907 opened the doors of Neiman Marcus. Though all were under 30, with not a high school diploma among them, they set out to offer ready-to-wear clothing of quality and value in an era when most clothing was still custom made. The apparel industry had not yet evolved into any sort of organized mass production, and issues of sizing, quality control, and style kept most fashionable women returning to their private dressmakers.
The young owners recognized that the world was changing and were determined to establish a unique business in the new era. They worked closely with manufacturers, demanding excellence, and offered to pay more for improved and finer garments. Customer satisfaction was paramount, and the sales staff was trained to accommodate clientéle and gently guide them toward good taste. Dallas was a thriving city of 84,000 people, many of whom possessed wealth from cotton. Oil money would come later, and Neiman Marcus was positioning itself to be the most fashionable store in the Southwest.
Herbert's son Stanley joined the store in 1926, after a Harvard education. His three younger brothers eventually followed him into the business. Two years later, Carrie and Al Neiman divorced, leaving the store owned by the Marcus family. Stanley Marcus instituted many events and practices that became standard for department stores, such as the first luncheon fashion show, personalized gift wrapping, bridal shows, and national advertising in Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. His immaculate taste and genius for merchandising are legendary, and stories about his sales ability abound. He has been asked to select gifts for royalty and heads of state as well as the difficult to please; he once sold an electric blanket for a pet lion and had a toupee made for a mounted lion's head whose mane had been ravaged by moths.
Stanley Marcus assumed the rank of CEO and president in 1950 and stayed with the store until 1979, retiring as chairman of the board (he died in January 2002 at the age of 96). His son Richard, who served as CEO and chairman until 1988, succeeded him.
Neiman Marcus opened a suburban store in 1948, beginning a slow expansion in the U.S. that would eventually spread across nearly half the nation. The first public sale of common stock occurred in 1959, the same year Neiman Marcus by Mail was launched. Carter Hawley Hale of Broadway Hale bought the stores in 1969. A difference in philosophy created poor sales and damaged Neiman Marcus' reputation as unique.
In 1987 Carter Hawley Hale traded controlling interest in the Neiman Marcus Group to General Cinema (renamed Harcourt General in 1993). The Group included the prestigious Bergdorf Goodman stores (two) in New York and the mass-market chain Contempo Casuals. The Group purchased Horchow Mail Order of Dallas, a high-end home items retailer in 1988. Contempo Casuals was sold to Wet Seal in 1995, and the Group bought Chef's Catalogue, a purveyor of fine cookware in 1998. The Group also opened three Galleries of Neiman Marcus, smaller stores specializing in gifts and fine jewelry.
In 1998 the Group acquired controlling interest in the company that makes Laura Mercier cosmetics. The next year, they purchased more than 50 percent of Kate Spade, manufacturer of luxury shoes and handbags. Harcourt General spun off most of its stake in the Neiman Marcus Group to its own shareholders in 1999, with Richard Smith, his son Robert, and his son-in-law, Brian Knez, controlling about 23 percent of Neiman Marcus.
It remains to be seen whether the Neiman Marcus Group can continue to provide the superb special events, exotic one-of-a-kind items, and the personal attention that made the store one of the great retailers in America.