The New Neiman Marcus CEO Loves Target
Karen Katz talks about leading the luxury retailer, clothing allowances, and her other favorite place to shop.
Q: Have you cleared out Burt Tansky’s office already?
A: No, that’s not the way we do things at Neiman Marcus. A number of years ago, Burt moved to a different office in our seventh-floor offices of the downtown store. I took what was his old office, but it was originally Stanley Marcus’ office. The office has good karma, and I feel very secure in it. I’m staying right here.
Q: You were already in charge of all the stores. With this promotion, how does your job change?
A: I now oversee the team that runs Bergdorf Goodman. I oversee the team that runs Neiman Marcus Direct. I have more interaction with the technology group and the legal group. I was running 70 percent of the company, so my new responsibilities don’t double what I was doing, but they do get me into other parts of the business.
Q: What’s going on with your Twitter feed? Cusp has a feed, but it seems like all the other Neiman Marcus accounts are owned by squatters.
A: We haven’t fully engaged yet on Twitter. We’re working on an overall strategy for all of the social media.
Q: What’s the latest on Lastcall.com?
A: We’re launching that in early October.
Q: You guys went private in 2005. How does that change the way you operate?
A: It really doesn’t change the way we operate. Being a leveraged company with private-equity owners, we took on $3 billion of debt, and we have big interest payments each year. But, generally speaking, it did not change the way we run the business. I think we’ve proven now, after five years, that we are an extremely well-run company, in the best of times and in the worst.
Q: It’s been tough for everybody but especially the luxury market. How are things looking now?
A: I think the customer is back shopping. I do think that the recession changed the way she thinks about shopping. She’s more selective. The press during the recession said the customer is going to come back and buy only the basics. That is absolutely the opposite of what has taken place over the last eight months. She’s still very interested in luxury, but I think she’s looking at the price to make sure the value and quality are there.
Q: Outside of Neiman’s, where is your favorite place to shop?
A: Target is my favorite store outside of Neiman Marcus.
Q: Come on. When was the last time you were in a Target? Be honest.
A: A week ago. [laughs] They should put me on their payroll.
Q: I read at one point that your clothing allowance was $25,000. With the promotion, does that go up?
A: I no longer have a clothing allowance.
Q: Wow. That means your compensation package is so awesome that you don’t even need a clothing allowance.
A: It’s all public information.
Q: What handbag did you bring to work today?
A: I’m carrying a beautiful Gucci bag today. I’m a professed bag lady. Some women love shoes, but I have lots and lots of handbags.
Q: Tell me what to expect this fall. What are the trends?
A: The fashion trends I think play well to our customer. There’s a lot of green out there, from olive to kelly greens. That’s not something we’ve promoted in a long time. There’s lots of lace. We’re talking a lot about boots. As hot as it has been around the country, the boot selling has been absolutely incredible this summer, whether it’s motorcycle boots or over-the-knee boots or booties with fur.
Q: What’s the best thing about your job?
A: This is a dream job. I mean this. I feel so lucky to be able to run Neiman Marcus. Being a native Dallasite, I’m not sure I ever could have imagined it.