Neiman Marcus: Late to the “value” party

Today’s Retail Wire panel discussion touches on Neiman Marcus’s announcement of a stronger value positioning, in place by spring 2010. (This reminds me of the back-and-forth debate about A&F’s value positioning, at a higher level…and Abercrombie finally cried “uncle.”) Here’s my comment:

“Lower-priced goods” by the standards of Neiman Marcus shouldn’t mean “cheap.” However, their merchandise mix today is perhaps the most high-end of the luxury retailers. There is very little opportunity for even the upper-moderate-to-better customer to find something affordable in N-M by today’s standards.

Neiman’s key competitors have already reacted to the rapid change in consumer spending and psychology: Saks is famously running more deep discounts on designer apparel, and Nordstrom is adding more moderate prices to its merchandise mix. If I were advising Neiman, I would suggest putting a compelling strategy in place sooner rather than later, to avoid missing the entire 2009 fall season.

A smattering of sale events (or value-added offers for frequent guests) may be an easier place to start than a revamp of the merchandise mix. However, I would push the merchants hard to shift some OTB dollars by working with the supplier base with a renewed sense of urgency.

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