Neiman Marcus blends retail and tech at Hudson Yards megastore

Department store Neiman Marcus is claiming a stake of the $25bn Hudson Yards development opening in lower Manhattan in NYC this week with a megastore that merges traditional and omnichannel retail.

The space, which takes up five out of seven floors of the retail complex, is the retailer’s latest play at engaging with a new luxury consumer that is not only seeking products, but experiences and education alongside.

On the lower floor, for example, the retailer is hosting a kitchen for live demonstrations, while Neiman Marcus Live is a space on the middle floor that can hold up to 100 people for events like talks and Q&As with fashion designers and industry pioneers. The store also features a bar, named Stanley, which overlooks the Thomas Heatherwick-designed Vessel structure, a larger-than-life center piece for the Hudson Yards complex.

Technology is being blended into the space in order to give the luxury customer a one-to-one, tailored interaction with sales staff.

The Current Global’s CTO, Scott Emmons, who is the former head of the Neiman Marcus iLab, and was responsible for the technology execution in the new store before his departure, said: “We applied creative approaches and partnerships so that the consumer-facing technology was both useful to the shopper, and fit naturally into a very luxurious retail environment.”

A smart fitting room at Neiman Marcus

This includes a smart fitting room where customers can ‘check in’ upon entering, which will then act as a communication tool between shopper and sales associate. The customer can request new items, different sizing and even signal they are ready to check out through a personal screen, which is then communicated to the associate’s mobile POS system.

The fitting room experience was designed to easily be updated with new capabilities in the future, such as self-checkout or recommendation technologies, as well as enhance the ever-important role of the associate.

“Technology in this instance, is being used to not only deliver an optimal customer experience but act as a digital exoskeleton to supercharge the capabilities of the sales associates,” Emmons added.

It’s for this reason he believes this store is an example of what retail needs to look like in the future. “New York is one of the toughest places in the world to be a retailer and stand out from very capable competitors. Technology is not the only answer but when combined with the visual aspects, the right merchandise, experiential aspects and so forth, it can put you over the top.”

“This is how we think about things at the Current Global – removing technology from its vacuum and into the wider context of creative innovation in order to meet pressing consumer demands. At the end of the day, traditional retail must be weaved together with modern tech to enable customers to be seen and treated like individuals, and not market segments. Technology for the sake of it will never respond to basic human needs of having emotional connections when purchasing luxury.

“At a time when so many department stores are failing, what Neiman Marcus has pulled off is an inspiring example of what luxury retail should be. It’s a combination of great experience, great staffing, great environment and the right tech.”

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