Neiman Marcus CEO Karen Katz and I Talk Shoes

Karen Katz at Dream Cafe.  Illustration by Tony Healey
Karen Katz at Dream Cafe. Illustration by Tony Healey

Were I to detail for you areas of subject matter about which I have the least interest, “fashion” might well top the list. And yet I found myself taking extra care in the selection and preparation of my shirt, pants, and jacket for my breakfast meeting with Neiman Marcus CEO Karen Katz at Dream Cafe in Uptown.

I didn’t want to appear (as my wife delights in describing my lack-of-style-in-dress) “frumpy” in front of one of the most powerful women in fashion. I enjoy talking to people on topics about which they themselves are passionate, so I was looking forward to our chat and to not embarrassing myself in the process. I think I cleaned myself up agreeably well.

I flashed back to that morning, which you can read about in the current issue of D CEO, when I saw the news this morning that Neiman’s online sales are up 17.5 percent in the most recent quarter. Katz told me that over time she expects the company will need fewer brick-and-mortar stores thanks to gains from e-commerce.

Are people really willing to buy a $4,000 Chanel handbag online?

I expressed doubts. She assured me that Neiman’s customers are, but that shoes quickly became the No. 1 category for their virtual-world sales.  I told her how my wife likes to buy shoes online, and how I’ve always found that strange since it forces you to buy before you’ve tried them on, and when it comes to shoes my first question is always, you know, “do they fit?”

And then Katz responded to me in such a way that I knew my attempts to dress up for her had accomplished nothing. I had revealed myself for the style neanderthal that I am.

“First of all, when women buy shoes, comfort’s probably not in the top five reasons they buy shoes. They do want them to fit, but it’s all about fashion,” she said.

I knew that already, I swear. It still doesn’t compute, but I knew that.