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Nurturing a Growth Mindset at Neiman Marcus Group

The Neiman Marcus Group has reinvented its company culture to drive its technological transformation and revolutionise luxury retail experiences.
Neiman Marcus store in Fort Worth, Texas.
Neiman Marcus store in Fort Worth, Texas. (JONATHAN ZIZZO)
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Founded in 1907, the Neiman Marcus Group (NMG) is a multi-brand luxury retailer consisting of department stores Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. Over the past four years, the group’s CEO Geoffroy van Raemdonck has spearheaded NMG’s transformation.

Today, NMG is focused on nurturing a growth mindset in all employees across the company to accelerate its digital and cultural transformation. NMG has strategically identified digital investments and enhancements as one of its greatest opportunities, dedicating over $600 million to technological, store and supply chain investments.

Following the recent $200 million minority common equity investment from Farfetch, NMG has begun adopting the platform’s technologies to power the Bergdorf Goodman website and mobile app. As a result, there has been a focus on upskilling its employees to work with in-house digital selling tools, including the “Connect” remote selling platform powered by Stylyze — a platform acquired by NMG in 2021 — to build stronger and more meaningful relationships with clients.

To maintain this momentum and drive future innovation, NMG has promoted a majority women-led leadership team and is ensuring environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards feed into its daily operations while continuing to invest and focus on fostering a more inclusive culture across its businesses. In 2021, the group joined the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index — a benchmarking tool on corporate policies and practises for LGBTQ+ inclusivity — and was recognised with an inaugural score of 100 for workplace equality.

Having successfully navigated the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on working styles, NMG plans to remain permanently hybrid — which the company has named its omni-working philosophy — for the vast majority of its corporate associates to enable greater flexibility across the US and globe.

Neiman Marcus Group CEO, Geoffroy van Raemdonck

Now, BoF sits down with Neiman Marcus Group’s van Raemdonck to learn more about how NMG is revolutionising luxury experiences through its culture, known internally as the NMG Way, by instilling a growth mindset within its employees.

What core values underpin NMG and its company culture?

Our culture, which we call the NMG Way, ensures that we start internally to create the right framework and environment for our associates. Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus were family businesses and those core values are a part of our DNA. We have united them within our culture and formalised them into five pillars: Be Bold, Be Memorable, Be Trustworthy, Be All Heart and Be the Best.

During the pandemic, we were faced with unprecedented situations and we had to make difficult choices, such as temporarily closing stores. As a group, and what I found in my own leadership is that, if you have the right set of values and use them as your moral compass, you can be decisive and make choices that you don’t later come to regret.

Why is tech investment significant for the future of NMG?

Technology and data allow us to scale the personal relationships we are known for. For example, we have invested around $200 million into NMG’s Connect platform, which includes data, analysis and clienteling technology.

We have had more than 9 million client engagement sessions on Connect. Our sales associates recommend a service, look, or send an invitation to an event they think will create inspiration, engagement and pleasure for customers. The relationship is amplified by store associates engaging multiple times — via a phone call, text or an in-store appointment. Then, the customer chooses whether they engage in-person or remotely.

If you have the right set of values and use them as your moral compass, you can be decisive and make choices that you don’t later come to regret.

Finally, we recently announced an exciting partnership with Farfetch. We’ll work together to initially re-platform the Bergdorf Goodman website and mobile app, expanding our global digital presence and capabilities. In turn, Farfetch has made a minority common equity investment of up to $200 million into NMG, enabling us to further accelerate growth and innovation through investments in technology and digital capabilities.

How does NMG instil a growth mindset in its employees?

An important element of our profitable and sustainable growth strategy is instilling a growth mindset to revolutionise luxury experiences. Fashion is highly volatile and we make fast-paced decisions every day that give us a chance to better serve the customer, so it’s a journey of constantly being better, learning from our mistakes and pushing each other.

We are focused on multiplying the right decisions we make daily, so that each day we have a chance to better serve our customers. It’s the journey of growing constantly and pleasing our customers. That’s how it all comes together. But it starts with our values and then having those five pillars to make sure we institutionalise our values.

How is the implementation of ESGs impacting company culture?

I always say to our team that what we do matters, but how we do it is how we will be remembered. It’s in our DNA to be a company that cares deeply about the world. We believe that because we serve the luxury customer and work with more than 3000 brand partners, we have a responsibility to evolve how luxury has an impact. We invite our teams to think about what they do and how they do it. For instance, we’ve made a choice to advance sustainable products and services. These are areas we intend to lead and differentiate ourselves.

We introduced our first ever ESG report in March 2022, which outlines our strategy, shares our progress to date, and celebrates recent and upcoming investments. The ESG report is designed as a mirror image of our business strategy, and we have set 2025 goals in order to continue moving and maintaining accountability on this journey.

We have these micro ideas that might start with a team in-store, in a segment of our organisation or at a corporate level, and then grow. It’s not a top-down approach.

We unveiled our Animal Welfare Policy in June 2021 and announced that both Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman would go fur-free by March 2023. That was a decision that we communicated publicly and then used our platforms to educate our associates, customers, and brand partners on what alternatives to fur we can offer, like faux fur made from ethical and sustainable fabrics or products featuring organic leather — from apple to mushroom leather.

We have these micro ideas that might start with a team in-store, in a segment of our organisation or at a corporate level, and then grow. It’s not a top-down approach — all of us have our eyes on how we fulfil our ESG journey to revolutionise impact.

How are company values nurtured across different geographies and at different levels of seniority?

At every layer, we work hard to make NMG a place where people feel confident and where diversity of thought and background are valued, so we are all empowered to show up as our true selves. When you truly belong, you can bring your very best.

As a leader, being openly gay and making my journey visible through leveraging my authentic self at work was how I ensured that I took on that responsibility as a role model, so that our employees could see and feel what it is like to be in a welcoming and supportive culture. To demonstrate this company-wide, we went into partnership with the Human Rights Campaign to look at our policies for the LGBTQ+ community. Ultimately, that resulted in our first year of taking the Corporate Equality Index, from which NMG was recognised as a best place to work for LGBTQ+ equality.

We champion workplace diversity as an integral part of NMG because it brings a diversity of backgrounds and experiences to our business and community. We are a woman co-founded company. I appointed our first and second women CFO, with four of the five most senior positions in the company held by women. Since our 2020 restructuring, our board is now also majority women led.

How has flexible working enabled NMG to grow and evolve?

We recognise that everyone’s way of working and family needs are different. Therefore, most corporate associates can choose where, when and how they work. As long as we are delivering against our goals, meeting and exceeding expectations – how we get there is the individual’s responsibility. The NMG WOW — our Way of Working — prides itself on recognising the uniqueness of everyone and empowering them to work differently.

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