Michael Crotty, senior vice president of marketing for high-end apparel retailer Bergdorf Goodman, says that parent company Neiman Marcus Group always had a vision of putting all its brands online. But Bergdorf Goodman’s entrance into e-commerce was a particularly deliberate one.
While the core brand, Neiman Marcus, has been selling its upscale apparel and home decor online since 1999, Bergdorf Goodman’s site has been live only since September 2004. “There were a lot of things we needed to learn,” says Crotty. “Like what type of luxury items will sell online, where will customers come from, what will it take to make it a profitable business. We focused on that for four-plus years and were successful.”
In addition to Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf, the company includes upscale home decor cataloger Horchow, which went online in 2002. Unlike Neiman Marcus and Horchow, Bergdorf was new to direct marketing — and in fact, unknown in much of the country. Bergdorf has only two stores: a women’s apparel store and a menswear counterpart, both on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
Even before launching its Website, Bergdorf Goodman reached out to upscale consumers beyond the New York metro area, largely with its self-titled quarterly magazine. “We have always had good customers in key markets across the country and have marketed to them via our magazine and other direct mail pieces,” says Crotty.
In fact, Crotty says, the magazine is Bergdorf’s most important sales and branding tool. “Several years ago we decided rather than to advertise in existing fashion magazines, we would just produce our own magazine,” says Crotty. The magazine’s 300,000 copies are mailed to customers and available in the Bergdorf stores and in the rooms of about 20 top hotels in New York.
Nearly all the merchandise sold in the Bergdorf Goodman stores is also available online. “They’re extremely similar,” says Crotty. “It’s not a 100% match, but it’s not drastically different. It’s tweaked to meet online customer demand.”
Feedback regarding Bergdorf Goodman’s online business has been “terrific,” Crotty says. “Customers have been thrilled with it. For the luxury fashion customer seeking brands that have a very limited and exclusive distribution, it’s a whole different experience.” Some of the upscale brands offered by Bergdorf Goodman include Giorgio Armani, Jean Paul Gaultier, Vera Wang, Brioni, Dsquared2, Kiton, and Jimmy Choo.
So far Bergdorf is the only Neiman Marcus Group brand without a print catalog. And it looks like it will remain so, at least for a while. “We haven’t announced any plans to expand beyond the Website,” Crotty says. “There were a lot of customers who expect you to have a Web business, and we wanted to meet that expectation for our customers.”