I recently had the privilege of interviewing Ira Neimark to celebrate his new book, “How I retired successfully and happily and lived to be 100”. As background, Ira started work in 1938 and made his way up to be CEO of Bergdorf Goodman. When he started his 17 year CEO tenure, many of the top retailers like Saks, Bloomingdales, Macy’s were in a battle for leadership. Neimark and his team came up with a new strategy of making designers into mega brands — which capitulated Bergdorf into 800% growth! He found Giorgio Armani in a small hotel without a real lightbulb in Italy, brought in Calvin Klein, the Fendi sisters and so many more and made huge parties through out Central Park and NYC where the designers became the heart of attention. The media loved it and it the designers themselves became the superstars. When I asked Ira, about his original strategy he said, “Our first idea was to take Bergdorf Goodman from being old, dull, expensive and intimidating and make it into something young, exciting, expensive and intimidating.” And as the story goes, designers became the kings and queens and luxury retail was transformed forever.
I was curious about what the iconic Neimark thought about retail today. I sort of felt like I was asking Bobby Jones to test out a large head titanium golf driver. So here is Ira’s in depth answer on how today’s retailers should focus when in a world where the Internet moves sales, and stores are closing left and right. His response was, “There are many basic principles that are necessary to be a successful retailer. One of the most important is Customer Service. From Bergdorf Goodman at one end and Amazon at the other end with Nordstrom in the middle, all achieve great success with high marks for customer service. The key to all this are salespeople who are knowledgable and eager to satisfy a customer’s needs. A professional sales person can pay for themselves many times over. Which has been proven in all my retail experience. Today’s retailers in most cases are not familiar with this tried and true rule.”
And the message is clear, any CEO who wants to revitalize their company has to first remember the fundamentals and see how they work best in today’s environment.
As a note, if you want to learn about how to transform an industry I suggest reading Ira Neimark’s new book, “How I retired Successfully and Happily and Lived to be 100” https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=how+I+retired+successfully+and+happilu+adn+lived+to+be+100