NEW YORK — Footwear insiders last week saluted Burton Tansky following the retail veteran’s announcement that he would retire as president and CEO of Neiman Marcus later this year.
“He is known in the industry — and this is a kind phrase — as a shoe dog,” said George Malkemus, president of Manolo Blahnik USA. “He adores shoes, particularly high-heeled women’s shoes.”
Tansky will officially hand over the reins at Neiman Marcus on Oct. 6. Karen Katz, president and CEO of Neiman Marcus Stores and EVP of Neiman Marcus Group, will succeed him. Meanwhile, Jim Gold, president and CEO of the Bergdorf Goodman division, will take on an expanded role at the firm, as president of specialty retail, overseeing merchandise and store operations for both Bergdorf and Neiman Marcus full-line stores.
Below, shoe execs weigh in on the Tansky era and the future of Neiman Marcus.
President of Manolo Blahnik USA
“Burt has been our greatest support throughout the years. When I show the shoes at Neiman, he makes a point of coming, which is a great honor for me, to have somebody as important as Burt come look at our shoes and give me his critique. When they are very high and sexy, he likes them, and when they are flat, he doesn’t like them.
“The dynamics of not having [Burt] there will certainly change [things] and will be an adjustment for all of us, but [Karen and Jim] will take the ball and run with it as soon as [he] leaves in October.”
Chairman and CEO of Collective Brands Inc. and former CEO of Cole Haan
“Burt has been a consistent advocate of the customer over many decades. He is the consummate retailer ... putting his customer first and building great teams whose No. 1 goal is to work together and to elevate and celebrate a great shopping experience. To have done that for so many decades and in so many formats, whether in-store or online, Burt has shown us how to lead by learning and looking to the future. His greatest legacy is the people he has trained and partnered with over the years. They populate the industry and will multiply his principles.”
President and CEO of Schwartz & Benjamin
“As a Bostonian — which I am at heart, even though I live in New York — learning that Burt is retiring can only be compared to the day I heard Larry Bird was hanging up his sneakers. Burt is a great friend, mentor and partner. The retail community will be losing a charismatic and innovative leader. Personally, I will miss him and I hope he will still be involved with our crazy footwear world in some capacity.”
Chairman of Financo
“Burt is one of the true merchant princes in retailing. He has a great feel for the marketplace [and] understands his clientele as well as anybody.
“Burt is one of the most talented retail executives around. And what he has done in terms of grooming successors has been an absolute profile of what somebody can do in the industry. I believe Burt is still going to be around, hopefully for a long time, [and] as chairman, guide his proteges. Both Karen and Jim, whom I’ve known for many years, are two extremely able executives who are going to continue to guide Neiman Marcus through its next stages.”