FN's Private Eyes

Our secret shoppers infiltrate six major department stores.

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Manolo Blahnik boots at Neiman Marcus.

Photo By Courtesy Photo

Neiman Marcus, Beverly Hills, Calif.

Location/date/time: 9700 Wilshire Blvd.; Friday, July 3; 4 p.m.
The environment: What recession? Customers perched on padded chairs with their little dogs, surrounded by exploding tissue-filled boxes of designer shoes.
Number of salespeople/customers: 10; 40
Prevalent brands: Christian Louboutin and Manolo Blahnik almost fill the main shoe wall. Roger Vivier occupies a large corner.
Styles in play: Pre-fall brings the first boots of the season, from the ubiquitous ankle length to daring thigh-highs. It’s not practical, but many feature uppers made of lace.
Trend watch: The look was bold with deep covered platforms, spike heels and cutouts. Bright, brazen gold is making a comeback.
The service: The lack of eye contact from the well-dressed salesmen made me wonder if I had forgotten to brush my hair — or my teeth. I walked the floor for 15 minutes, then seated myself and put my handbag on the next chair, clearly settling in. Still, no one approached.
Then, it hit me: Each woman had her own personal salesman, and he was catering to her alone. Early-season shoppers at Neiman Marcus belong to an exclusive club. Once you’re a customer, you’re in. I flagged down a young saleswoman and she was enthusiastic without giving me a hard sell.
Yes, we have it: I had to go up or down a half size, and they were able to accommodate me. But a Chanel mesh boot was already sold out, \at $1,425.
Most expensive: Christian Dior’s crystal platform pumps, at $2,250.
Least expensive: Very little starts below $350.
It’s a steal: The sales racks, shoved to the side, were 33 percent off, with an additional 25 percent markdown.
Top pick: Chanel stretch leather knee-high boots with a black patent toe cap and ruffle for $1,350. They could easily wiggle over dark stovepipe jeans. Still, I couldn’t stop strutting in Manolo Blahnik’s studded, spike-heeled boots, at $1,595.
Lasting impression: Deep selection from top brands, but the initial lack of service was a turn off.


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