Retail Leaders Gather in Dallas


Challenging times, continued re-tuning, and celebrating the few successes. There were many key insights to learn from this group of industry leaders, gathered in Dallas recently for the International Retail Design Conference. New strategies for value and environmentally conscious consumers and brands, localization and regionalism, global retail development in markets like China, India, Middle East, Latin America, experience based retail design, and community connections were discussed in depth. Here is what some of them had to say during our 3 days in Dallas together.

From Burt Tansky, CEO of Neiman Marcus

“Once you acquire a taste for luxury it remains, it doesn’t disappear, though it may be dormant for a while”

Also “Trends come and go, quality and great design are always in style”

Keys to NM brand “Improve, Innovate, Improvise”

“Luxury never changes” – as part of a dialog that Neiman Marcus is not trading down (though they are broadening some of the merchandise ranges, and experimenting with midday dash sales)

He did admit “I can’t get out of Costco for less than 200$” and his fondness for shopping at Costco.. 

New Neiman Marcus Store at The Bravern, Bellevue

John Mulliken, VP Store Planning and Development, Louis Vuitton

“Louis Vuitton never goes on sale” and “We must create the highest level of customer experience”

On keys to LV brand — “Craftsmanship, Innovation and Technology”


Others, overheard

“Don’t plan 2010 budgets on today’s (20-25%) reduced construction costs – material and labor costs will rise”

“There is nothing like a good recession to get you to run a better business”


“Do more with less” – repeated by many…

On budgets “no renovations, new stores, travel – significant restrictions on all capital expenditures


James Smith, Director of Store Design, Anthropologie, on winning the retailer of the year award 

Anthropologie has been doing “local” since the 1980’s – the key is operational ownership at the store – merchandising, design, and visual display –

“Empower the people in the stores”  

“No two stores are the same”

“Create a canvas to build on but allow the opportunity for empowering local teams to interpret and create”

What will the industry look like next spring? Who will be thriving? Luxury retail numbers continue to slide.  Meanwhile, look at new innovations like Uniqlo’s ramp up of their global expansion on current same store sales increases of 30%++  Look at their new +J Jill Sander line, released October 1st – timeless design and detailing at a fraction of the cost of the full line label. 

The reflective trends such as pride in thrift related to post-great-recession values and re-localization of big brand rollout stores are strong indicators of a long term shift in the market.  It is true that great design and quality are always in style, but at what cost?  The value proposition is a foundational key to the new consumer mindset and bottom line. There is a new found pride in thrift rather than bling. There is also an interesting alignment of these values with new developments in sustainability and environmental consciousness. Re-use, re-cycle, re-purpose – all good for the environment and the pocketbook.