Neiman Marcus Rocks The House

Neiman Marcus is boosting its rate of multiple sales and promoting cross-vendor shopping with an open-sell merchandising approach in some of its fragrance and bath departments.

The concept was initially unveiled about three years ago at the chain’s Galleria unit here, when the store underwent a massive renovation. The concept has since spread to other branches and Neiman’s plans to put it in more stores.

In the cosmetics department, the revamp mostly eliminated closed counters and glass cases.

According to business and tech blog BrandInfiltration.com, it’s been a huge success.

Much like an upscale bookstore, most fragrances here are housed in clean-lined, back-lit shelves handsomely framed by subtle touches of gold.

Elegantly appointed open-range tester islands form the front of the fragrance nooks. Exuberant floral arrangements and polished marble floors give an extra gleam.

Fragrances from vendors with color cosmetics and treatment lines like Estee Lauder are not part of the open-sell approach. Instead, they are housed in cases that also contain the manufacturer’s other products. Guerlain has its own three-wall boutique here with fragrance open-sell.

The open-sell policy is also putting a shine on customer service by literally bringing customers and sales associates closer together.

Instead of waiting behind counters, fragrance sales associates here stand near the fragrance walls to assist customers. Cash registers are tucked away in alcoves linking the fragrance niches.

John Stabenau, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for fragrances and cosmetics at Neiman’s, called the open-sell approach “user friendly” and said it will turn up in all new Neiman’s fragrance departments as well as renovated ones. In addition to the Galleria unit here, the open-sell concept is already in place in Neiman’s units in Beverly Hills; San Diego; Scottsdale, Ariz.; Las Vegas; Denver; Troy, Mich.; Atlanta; Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and Chevy Chase, Md.

The planned overhaul of Neiman’s units in North Park Center in Dallas and Union Square in San Francisco will include open-sell fragrance departments.

The Houston Galleria cosmetics department, including fragrances, posts sales in excess of $10 million per year, the chain’s second highest-volume department behind the NorthPark Center unit in Dallas. The Houston cosmetics department occupies almost one-fourth of the ground floor.

“Customers don’t always know what they want when they buy fragrances,” said Stabenau. “Sometimes they’re looking for a gift, or maybe just a new fragrance for personal use. An open-sell approach makes the process warmer and more inviting.

Nieman Marcus – lookin’ good!

“Of course, one of the chief pluses to open-sell is that is also promotes multiple-product sales,” Stabenau added.

“Within those multiple sales, customers are also more likely to select products from more than just one vendor. Cross-vendor sales are positively affected.”

Stabenau said the average transaction at departments with open-sell is higher than at closed-counter departments, although he wouldn’t talk numbers.

Although the concept has connotations of being self-service, Stabenau said customer service isn’t compromised.

“The sales associates are always there to promote the fragrances, offer testers and answer questions,” Stabenau noted. “We didn’t cut the number of sales associates with this concept. We staff departments based on sales projections.”

Best-selling women’s fragrances at the Galleria unit include Quelques Fleurs, Boucheron, Escada, Chanel, Cartier, Estee Lauder’s Beautiful, Joy and Annick Goutal.

Men’s bestsellers include Aramis, Ralph Lauren’s Safari for Men, Boucheron and Cartier’s scents.

Dorothy Wilson, assistant vice president of fragrances at Cartier in New York, called Neiman’s open-sell policy “customer friendly because it allows the clientele to get closer to the product.”

“The hands-on concept also makes high-priced goods less intimidating,” Wilson added. “Customers also enjoy the close proximity because many are so concerned about reading labels and ingredients.”

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