Commentary

Why Neiman Marcus Turned To A Small Retailer For Much-Needed Retailing Inspiration

Specialty retailers, if you aren’t convinced that you are positioned for the next big trend in retailing, then here is more proof. Another of the ‘big boy’ retailers, Neiman Marcus, is looking to a specialty retailer to help it restore some of its lost magic and learn some new tricks about how to sell in today’s rapidly evolving retail landscape. Neiman Marcus just partnered with Story in New York City to tap its young, urban sophisticate customers and get some much needed buzz going about what it has to offer. 

Story, located on 10th Avenue at 19th Street, describes itself as a retailer with “Point of view of a Magazine -- Changes like a Gallery --Sells things like a Store.” The concept is brilliant in its simplicity and execution, as it presents a constantly changing smorgasbord of products displayed around a story-based theme. It entices its audience with its cutting-edge vibe to come in and participate and satisfy their curiosity.

Currently, Story is showcasing a “Remember When” story of ’90s nostalgia celebrating the 25th anniversary of Nickelodeon animation and its beloved characters, like the Rugrats and SpongeBob, SquarePants. What Disney and the Mickey Mouse Club was for Boomers, Nickelodeon is for Millennials and GenXers.

Neiman Marcus is getting in on the immersive retrospective by taking the Story story outside its flagship store for the first time onto the internet and as a pop-up shop in its Santa Monica store with limited-edition products inspired by the fashions of the decade, such as Keds Double Dare sneakers, State Kane backpacks and a collection of Smashbox Be Legendary lipsticks. 

Neiman Marcus is not the first big retailer to turn to Story for inspiration. Target did it last holiday season for its “Home for the Holidays”-themed story featuring a curated selection of Target’s gift ideas. Admittedly, neither retailer has a base in the New York shopping scene, so Story serves as a pop-up shop in that critical location. 

But it’s more than just location that draws these big retailers to Story. It is their immersive, customer-focused way to showcase innovative, interesting and compelling products in a way that triggers the interest and imaginations of its targeted customers – young, urban, sophisticated customers who, if not affluent now, are on the road to affluence. 

What retailers, big & small, can learn from Story

Founded by Rachel Shechtman, after a career in brand consulting, Story is a shop that understands that success today is less about what you sell and more about how you sell it. While Story sells products, the products don’t come first; the story and the customer experience does. Rachel says, “We have to let our story drive the assortment, rather than let the assortment drive our story. And when the story is sincere, it will spread just like a viral video.” 

That is what Neiman Marcus and Target have come to Story to learn: how to make shopping more about “community and entertainment, and less focused solely on consumption,” as Rachel says. 

Other specialty retailers that have absorbed that lesson and created shopping environments that truly reflect it. Their success may be measured in growing sales and customer interactions, but that is just a byproduct of what they are really doing: providing people in their community with an engaging, entertaining experience that is meaningful and important. The product they offer is only part of their story, not the story.

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