Texans in town
A first for Neiman Marcus, the Dallas-based department store retailer has finally landed in New York City with a new flagship store within the impressive Hudson Yards development.
Neiman Marcus already has 40 stores across the US but this new three-level is a major undertaking. One of the biggest differences between Texas and New York states can be quickly found in both the life and style of its inhabitants. In Texas bigger really does mean better – a state that proudly shines on big consumption and conspicuous showy wealth. Like the 1980s ‘Dallas TV show’, Texans are not short of cash, or the desire to spend it in a status affirming, social climbing, look at me and my money way. In short, louder really does win out over the understated, pared back, metropolitan designer chic that is the preference of inhabitants on the East Coast.
In moving into New York City Neiman Marcus had to think about this carefully, in both designing, presenting and ranging their store. The city’s newest department store is curated retail done in a way that simply oozes confidence, bold style and above all, quality.
Curated, quality retailing
Inside, the store layout is unconventional. The ground floor entrance is actually on the seventh floor of the development. This is a high-rise (very high-rise) department store. Over three floors the ground is dedicated to home, accessories and beauty 1st to menswear and third floor women’s designer collections and footwear.
The brand mix is superlative. The visual merchandising, outstanding. This is curated retail, done in a way that simply oozes, confidence, bold style and above all, quality. Unlike Macy’s and Bloomingdales, you won’t find jostling brands making a cluttering busy, visual noise. Similarly, there is no polluting point-of-sale, discount messaging and competing brand signage hanging chaotically above. The look instore is calm and assured, like walking into a room and everyone else standing open-mouthed – in a good way.
The brand mix is superlative. The VM, outstanding.
The Hudson Yards development expects to attract 23 million visitors per year. These are both encouraging and similarly ambitious numbers to physical retail stores, especially given the reality for of New York’s existing department stores. Only recently, Sax Fifth Avenue closed its smaller Winter Gardens offshoot in the NYC Financial District. So too did Lord and Taylor, as part of wider national store closures.
Set against such a backdrop, this venture appears more Texas-like in every way. Like oil men taking a risk into the ground and drilling for their next bountiful well, will this new store become a great gusher for the brand?
There are reasons for Neiman Marcus to be optimistic in investing in a bold, bright and brash new store in New York. Despite the bad news stories and recent gloomy predictions, there is also something of a renaissance going on in department stores in New York City right now.
The original, world famous Saks 5th Avenue is undergoing its own multi-million dollar investment program and creating some exciting changes that will pay off. The recent Barney’s NYC store on 7th Avenue is similarly groundbreaking in its style, design and vision. Dollar for dollar, its performance is reported to beat is more prestigious, and more expensively located Manhattan base on Madison Avenue. A true case of build it and they will come. Although it does not yet appear to have kick-started the broader redevelopment of its neighbourhood, over time I’m sure this will be the case.
Art of retail
Back at Hudson Yards, the incredible Thomas Heatherwick ‘Vessel’ – a walk in structural city and social art piece – is a brilliant forerunner to what you find inside the retailer’s new flagship. The elaborate honeycomb-like structure soars 16 stories and consists of 154 flights of stairs, 2500 steps, and 80 landings for visitors to climb. As the main feature of the 5-acre Hudson Yards Public Square, it has an expected final cost of $200 million. Big thinking indeed.
One of Neiman Marcus’s defining features of its department store experience is the presentation of its impressive modern art collection. The brand to adopt art as a key way to add popular appeal, theatre and impact instore. But is thoughtfully hung around each of the three floors to add definition and character to the selling spaces. These are not cheap copies: these are the real deal.
For anyone who believes that department stores still have a future, I certainly recommend a visit to the new Neiman Marcus flagship. This is a great place to spend time meandering, socialising, and perhaps taking in some of the views both internally and externally. I can think of no better way or place to spend a couple of hours in New York City.