Expanding Net: Neiman Marcus Online Sales to Top $200M is the driving force behind NM Direct, the e-commerce and catalogue division of Neiman Marcus Group. Here’s an update

Hoffman hopes to build on a stellar year in which the division’s comparable-sales gains outperformed its sibling stores for nine of the 12 months through February, hitting a record 27 percent jump in December. He attributed the holiday surge to Neiman’s ability to ship Christmas gifts right up until Dec. 24 when most competitors stopped four or five days earlier.

“We had a big push the last 10 days [before Christmas], and it was millions in incremental business,” Hoffman noted.

Neiman’s has gotten more aggressive about courting Internet users and building its e-mail database. Last spring, it launched a newspaper ad campaign in Birmingham, Mich.; Carmel, Calif., and Cleveland to lure new customers to its Web site. Since then, Neiman’s each season has run similar ads in three or four different cities, plus the local and national editions of The New York Times. The ads typically feature a single product, such as a Marc Jacobs handbag, and offer free shipping.

“Historically, advertising for direct sales was useless because they had to call for a catalogue, so you missed the moment of seduction,” Hoffman pointed out.

The publicity is working — Neiman’s online shopper database is growing by 40 percent each year, he said. And the company is talking to that group more frequently with twice-weekly e-mail communiqués. “We found people looked at the e-mails as editorial — what’s on the ‘in’ list now,” he observed, noting that the company did not want to besiege its customers with junk mail.

This month, Neiman’s will begin tailoring its site to match the browsing patterns of its shoppers with five or six different home pages, such as a men’s page for male visitors and a handbag home page for accessories shoppers.

“We think by getting you closer to what you want to see it will raise our conversion rate,” Hoffman explained. Currently, two and a half to three out of 10 [visitors] make a purchase, and if we raise that even one-tenth of a point, that is tens of millions of dollars.”

Neiman’s also is working to develop links with the corporate Web sites of key resources. It currently has electronic ties to Kate Spade, Anne Klein, Lilly Pulitzer and David Dart. A link to is expected in a few months.
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