The definition of luxury is changing dramatically as today’s consumers shift their sights from acquiring material goods to pursuing transformative experiences. A new direction is gaining momentum: Millennials and Gen-Z consumers desire high-end fashion, but on their terms. As digital engagement becomes the portal for more and more young shoppers, Neiman Marcus (Dallas) realized that compelling brick-and-mortar stores are a vital tool in an ever-challenging quest to engage online consumers.
With the goal of reshaping the brand into a luxury destination for a diverse demographic, the retailer partnered with New York-based design firm Janson Goldstein to help them enter the New York City market with a 188,000-square-foot flagship in Manhattan’s new neighborhood/development, Hudson Yards.
Hudson Yards is a $25 billion multi-use urban development on the West Side of Manhattan and offers the perfect venue for the retailer to plant its flag. At one time consisting of the unsightly storage yards for the Long Island Railroad, Hudson Yards is now home to sky-scraping office towers, high-rise luxury apartments, and 1 million square feet of prime retail space.
While still paying homage to its roots through visual cues, the new store is an indication of how the brand is adapting to the shopping habits of next-gen luxury shoppers. “Every design decision was customer centric,” said Mark Janson, Partner at Janson Goldstein. This new concept features three levels of fashion, art, digital innovation and culinary delights.
The design inspiration was derived from the neighborhood’s industrial past coupled with Neiman Marcus’ image as a showplace of modern luxury. Accordingly, the subtle materials palette transposed the rough and tumble of New York’s concrete jungle into fine Italian Breccia stone, steel into bronze, hard rock into terrazzo and paint into lacquer. The elegant gray stone is as a common thread, appearing throughout the environment at major touchpoints, such as the atrium, elevator wells and columns.
“Ease of movement through the store was a priority,” added Janson. “Ceiling lines and floor patterns drive traffic flow from the main entrance toward the perfectly positioned atrium in the center of the space.”
Digital directories at all entrances quickly orient customers with a user-friendly interface, allowing them to locate various vendor shops, departments and promotional events. In addition, elevators at 10th Avenue express directly to Neiman Marcus on level five of Hudson Yards.
Art is a dynamic component of the experience with approximately 305 original works on display, including paintings, sculptures and photographs from Neiman Marcus’ own collection as well as pieces by local artists. (Of particular note are sculptures by renowned artists Alexander Calder and Harry Bertoia.) Additionally, six custom crystal chandeliers imported from Prague, inspired by the 400-year-old tradition of Bohemian crystal, appear in high-impact areas.
Much like the store’s on-going curated art exhibition, technology is strategically woven into the fabric of the physical environment. Fitting rooms feature touchscreens so customers can call store associates for assistance, while customizable lighting lets shoppers adjust the light level based on the time of day the merchandise is to be used. Additionally, customers can conveniently checkout from the fitting room.
An unusual attraction is the store’s “digital styling lounge,” a melding of the physical and digital realms. Online shoppers are invited to visit this space in-store, where they can interact face-to-face with a digital stylist who has prepared a “look book” based on the customer’s online activity. This personal styling consultation is intended for special occasions for travel, work, or even a date night, allowing customers to browse collections not found elsewhere in the store.
With a full range of digital enhancements, a walk through Neiman Marcus is akin to a walk through the retailer’s website. It’s “retail theater” at its best, and an extraordinary example of the synergy between a brand’s physical store environment and its online presence.
Photography: Courtesy of Neiman Marcus, Dallas