Neiman Marcus, the fancy-schmancy department store where you can buy a pair of thigh-high Gucci boots for $2,450.00, has long been a place that bargain shoppers know better than to step foot in. In an industry where image is everything, the stores further exude exclusivity by only accepting cash, American Express, and their store credit card. From what I’ve heard, you get the hard sell on opening a store credit card, which comes with such perks as fur storage! (Provided you’re well-dressed enough to get a salesperson’s attention in the first place.)
But beginning Nov. 1, just in time for the holidays, the company’s 41 stores will begin accepting Visa and MasterCard for the first time, according to an article in today’s Wall Street Journal. Times are tough, even for a luxury retailer known as “Needless Markups.” The WSJ article notes that its store policy has led to lost sales, as shoppers would rather go somewhere else than be hassled with opening a new credit card account.
The Neiman Marcus website already takes major credit cards, as I’m sure it had to, since an e-tailer can’t offer the same level of customer service as a brick-and-mortar store. The company’s 30 outlet stores, called Neiman Marcus Last Call, also accept major credit cards, as does the Last Call website, its home goods e-tailer Horchow, its two Bergdorf Goodman stores in Manhattan, and its nine CUSP stores that cater to younger shoppers (who have access to their parents’ credit cards).
This isn’t the first time Neiman Marcus has had to bend its retail strategy to accommodate regular shoppers who don’t enjoy unlimited credit. Last year it opened a second chain of outlet stores, Last Call Studio, which features lower-priced casual contemporary apparel that isn’t even sold first at Neiman Marcus or Last Call. Last Call Studio clothes come directly from the vendor, and the stores also email coupons to advertise sales and drop prices even lower. So far there are only three Last Call Studio stores in Dallas; Rockville, MD; and Paramus, NJ; a fourth is scheduled to open in Houston next year.
Making the move to accept major credit cards can’t hurt the company; it’s not like society ladies will start to confuse it with a thrift store. The luxury retail market has been hit hard in the last couple of years, and Neiman Marcus suffered two years of net losses before finally returning to profitability in fiscal 2011.