• Retail Dive

Neiman's chief digital officer out amid e-commerce revamp

By Daphne Howland

Published Jan. 28, 2021

Dive Brief:

  • Neiman Marcus Group is doubling down on digital with a series of C-suite changes and an $85 million supply chain investment, following its emergence from bankruptcy last year, saying Wednesday that it's "grouping technology, digital products, and advanced analytics under one leader and distorting capital to these areas."

  • Amid the shakeup, Chief Digital Officer Katie Mullen is leaving in the summer, Neiman Marcus said in an emailed statement Thursday. Apple and eBay alum Bob Kupbens will be chief product and technology officer beginning Monday, reporting to CEO Geoffroy van Raemdonck, according to a company press release.

  • Kupbens will partner with Neiman Marcus Chief Customer Officer David Goubert and Chief Merchandising Officer Lana Todorovich, and Bergdorf Goodman President Darcy Penick to develop digital capabilities. Former Victoria Beckham CEO Paolo Riva will fill a new general manager, brand partnerships and merchandising role and report to Todorovich.

Dive Insight:

Neiman Marcus for years has been working to sharpen its digital side — a singular challenge for a retailer that is famous for its brick-and-mortar stores and planted firmly in the notoriously digitally resistant luxury space.

With that resistance to e-commerce waning somewhat among luxury brands and retailers, Neiman years ago bought the luxe European MyTheresa site, which quickly became a thorn in its side before and during its Chapter 11 proceedings. In 2018 the company brought on Mullen, who oversaw the development of virtual styling services and customer service, long key to its success with high spenders in its stores.

In its bankruptcy filing, Neiman last year boasted of operating "the largest luxury e-commerce platform in the world," pointing out that more than 30% of annual revenue is from online sales, and afterward announced store layoffs as part of an effort to boost that. Previous attempts to revamp its supply chain, described in Wednesday's release as a priority, were hampered by a debt load that has now been alleviated by its Chapter 11 process.

Last year, Mullen noted that the data-centric approach preserved an interpersonal touch, allowing it to snag online sales of such items as a $200,000 pair of earrings. "Luxury is always about the interpersonal dynamics and the relationship with the customer," Mullen said by phone last year. "It's not for us at all that automation or AI will do all the work."

In its statement Thursday, Neiman Marcus Group called Mullen's work "an excellent digital foundation for our business, helping us reimagine and transform how our sales associates communicate and engage with clients through new digital tools while modernizing how we manage our relationships with brand partners" and leaving it "well-positioned to move to our next phase of digital capability building."

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