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BoF LIVE | How Retail Careers Are Evolving

Neiman Marcus’s Lana Todorovich shared how the retailer is navigating the luxury retail sector’s transformation with an emphasis on the customer experience, and how retail careers are changing in the sector.
Two retail associates are in conversation and holding clothes in a store.
Neiman Marcus Group retail store associates. (JAMES OBRIEN)
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Today, stores must be multi-functional spaces to engage savvier shoppers focused on finding greater value in their retail experiences. Many retailers are creating entertainment hubs within their stores to connect brands with customers through social and launch events, exclusive collections displays, or by offering refined in-store services like custom tailoring and product refurbishing.

One luxury retailer, Neiman Marcus, has combined its legacy strength for expert curation with its customers’ desire for exclusivity in an approach the company calls “retail-tainment.”

Sharing her insights on the changing retail landscape, Neiman Marcus’ president and chief merchandising officer, Lana Todorovich, joined BoF’s commercial features manager Sophie Soar on BoF LIVE. Todorovich has also held leadership roles at the likes of Ralph Lauren, Global Brands Group and Calvin Klein.

“At the time I joined Neiman Marcus [in 2019], there was already a drumbeat of this idea that department stores were in decline,” said Todorovich. This can be true, the chief merchant explained, if and when stores continue operating as a purely transactional space.

Neiman Marcus Group, however, has leaned into a relationship-centric business model that caters to customers through integrated experiences, curated assortments and assisted selling.

“[The pandemic] was an opportunity to transform, reimagine and truly revolutionise [retail] experiences. We knew that customers wanted to engage differently once they came back to the physical stores,” Todorovich said.

As retailers work to rapidly adapt to meet shifting consumer needs, the standard for working on the retail floor is changing across all seniority levels and sectors. Employees must adapt to meet these needs through integrated digital tools and data analysis to inform their every step.

In turn, employers must keep stride with their associates’ desire for flexibility and developmental opportunities, which Neiman Marcus Group seeks to embody as a cornerstone of their unique “way of working.”

Now, BoF condenses five key insights from Lana Todorovich on how Neiman Marcus is delivering innovative experiences for its brand partners, customers and associates. Watch the conversation on “How Retail Careers Are Evolving” in the video above.

A headshot image of Lana Todorovich, president and chief merchandising officer at Neiman Marcus.

Empower Customers to Make Their Own Decisions

LT: “Gone are the days where retailers were actually telling customers what’s important and what to do. Certainly inspiration is important, but I think that satisfying customer desire, anticipating it and making it personal, is where we found success.

“We had to partner with our brand partners and our sales associates, to [learn] how best to empower this customer to make their own choices.

“[For example,] we have launched Fashion for Change — an edit of brands curated by standards — where customers can vote with their wallets around what matters to them and what values they would like to support, [....] whether it’s the use of sustainable materials, responsibly manufactured product or brands that give back in some way.”

Enable Virtual Connections Between Consumers and Retail Associates

LT: “Connecting our customers with their sales associates is hugely important. Our data shows that the customers that [have] relationships with sales associates spend 12 times more. That’s the point of differentiation — it’s about relationships, not transactions.

“Connect – our digital selling tool — is now a critical way for our sales associates to form relationships with customers [online]. [They are] enabled and empowered by data to make better connections, better decisions, and better engagements with their clients.

“We greatly accelerated [implementing] this technology and were able to have millions and millions of interactions, as well as transactions, with our customers during [lockdowns].”

Create Authentic Experiences to Strengthen Consumer Relationships

LT: “Relationships matter. So these authentic ways that we connect with our customers [...] continue to be a building block of our strategies going forward.

The customers that have relationships with sales associates spend 12 times more.

“[For example,] we wanted to create this dreamlike environment for our customers when they come to our stores. As part of that, we built a 3000 square foot installation in our North Park store in Dallas to bring the Italian Mediterranean coast to Texas.

“The experience was extremely immersive, with LED crashing waves and the sparkling sea on the walls, gelato carts with real gelato and, of course, incredible exclusive products across men’s, women’s, kids, even pets. All of this came together in this really incredible, immersive, multi-sensory experience.”

Enhance Employee-Led Creativity With Data Insights

LT: “The role and the importance of creativity and emotion when it comes to curating our assortment continues to be important. That’s one area [we are] not overcorrecting on the technology side [...] but instead using data and technology to empower the connections and the connectivity with the customer.

“Having this incredible convergence of data, technology, creativity, art, connections and relationships is revolutionising luxury experiences. That’s what I’m excited about continuing to do.”

Foster a Culture of Trust and Flexibility

LT: “The soft skill side is really this ability to create trust. [...] Trust is such a core of the cultures that are able to embrace innovation and transformation. The execution part comes from having [...] basic trust, whether it’s with business partners or with co-workers.

“[Neiman Marcus Group’s] WOW — or way of working — [is where] we work together to keep our people motivated [through] flexibility. We ensure our employees are able to tend to their personal lives while also having the opportunity to then connect when there is an important project to work on.

“Everybody comes to the hub [...] and you put all your heads together and you do wonderful creative work. [...] [We give] people flexibility to do the rest, at their own schedule and within their own framework.”

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