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How Bergdorf Goodman Will Revolutionize Luxury Shopping For The Digital Age

Since Neiman Marcus Group (NMG) was forced during its bankruptcy proceedings to close its first and only Neiman Marcus store in Hudson Yards in 2020, Bergdorf Goodman became NMG’s sole bastion in the city.

Early on, rumors circulated that NMG might offload Bergdorf Goodman too, but those were quickly put to rest as NMG recommitted to the brand as a core asset of its business.

Now powered by a strategy “Setting the New Standard In Luxury” to win in NYC and across the world, NMG CEO Geoffroy van Raemdonck, with the help of Bergdorf Goodman president Darcy Penick, plan to unlock BG’s potential in the rapidly evolving 21st-century world of modern luxury.

They will do it by teleporting the magical elegance of the Bergdorf Goodman in-store experience digitally.

Great Beginnings

Founded in 1899 by French tailor Herman Bergdorf, the company was renamed Bergdorf Goodman after Bergdorf’s apprentice Edwin Goodman saved enough money to buy part ownership in the business.

Not long after, Goodman bought Bergdorf out and, in 1928, moved the store to its current location on Fifth Avenue between 57th and 58th Street, now a designated New York City landmark.

Goodman’s son Andrew took over in the early 1950s. He eventually sold it in 1972 to what would become the Carter Hawley Hale Stores which also owned Neiman Marcus. Then in 1987, the two were spun off into the Neiman Marcus Group. Subsequently, BG moved its men’s business across the street to make way for more women’s fashion.

Throughout the 20th century, Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus were two of the nation’s leading names in luxury shopping: BG, the grand dame in New York City and NM in cities across the country.

Amplifying The Magic

Now van Raemdonck and Penick are challenged to bring BG into the 21st century. They’ve mapped out a strategy that, on the one hand, can’t mess with Bergdorf Goodman’s secret sauce:

“Being transported by the magic of inspired product offerings, the magic in our incredible iconic history, and the magic of creating extraordinary experiences for our clients,” said Penick.

And on the other, it must evolve those extraordinary experiences in-store and into the digital age. “We are continuing to modernize the brand-led, service/value proposition that we create in the store and then amplify it into the digital space,” she continued.

Amplify is a word that Penick often used in our discussion. But, since true luxury never shouts, only whispers, she isn’t referring to the primary definition of amplify, “to increase the volume of (sound).” Rather, she’s referencing a secondary one, “to enlarge upon or add detail to (a story or statement).”

What she must amplify digitally, i.e. enlarge or add detail to, is Bergdorf Goodman’s magic as the ultimate expression of true luxury in products and services. It’s a tall order, but one that Penick is uniquely qualified to do.

Penick began her career in luxury retail, starting as a buyer for Neiman Marcus, then moving to Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue and onto Shopbop in 2009 after its acquisition by Amazon. She ended her nine years with Amazon as Shopbop CEO, then rejoined Bergdorf Goodman as president in 2018.

Digital unlocks the growth potential for Bergdorf Goodman and Penick understands how to turn the key. She introduced the first BG app and is credited with overseeing NMG’s partnership with Farfetch that brought a $200 million minority investment by Farfetch to take its digital and technology capabilities further.

Now she is leading the re-platforming of BG’s website under Farfetch’s technology.

“We are only in one city worldwide, so digital is how we can bring the BG experience to clients worldwide. Often the global component of an online business is treated like an afterthought. But Farfetch technology was built with global in mind,” she said.

“This is an unlocking opportunity for us to bring a very localized BG experience to clients worldwide. That is a huge value proposition in our partnership.”

Online Elegance

The re-platforming is still a work in progress, but the concept is to bring what she describes as the “elegant aspects of the BG experience” to digital.  

“We are in the business of selling incredible artisanship and craft in the luxury space. In the store, that comes to life in an inspiring, tactile way with a service proposition that builds an emotional connection between our brand, our associates and our clients.

“Digitally, that brand-led experience must come through the site to inspire and excite. We will build relationships between our clients and our site in the same way they are built in our store and with our associates,” she explained.

She likens the elegance to be achieved online to the storied elegance reflected in Bergdorf Goodman streetside window displays.

“We think about translating that attention to detail and craft displayed in our windows online. It is how within digitally native spaces, we amplify those magical moments that are such a special part of the BG luxury experience.”

Banking On Deeper Customer Connections

NMG describes itself as a “relationship business,” and building deeper relationships with luxury customers is the goal of Bergdorf Goodman’s “Setting the New Standard in Luxury” strategy.

“Luxury is the core of the BG brand. We must ensure that those moments of magic and inspiration are central to the experiences for our clients regardless of the channel where they shop. That’s how we think about revolutionizing luxury,” she said.

Looking to the uncertainties surrounding 2023, Penick believes the business has a strong foundation to navigate the macroeconomic environment thanks to the loyalty of its current customers and the brand recognition of Bergdorf Goodman as exemplifying the pinnacle of luxury goods and services.

Over the past several years, HNW luxury consumers have been out and about broadcasting their ample monetary resources across a wide range of brands. If they start to feel the pinch, they can be expected to pull back and narrowcast their spending across a more selective range of brands they trust.

That’s when Bergdorf Goodman’s digital magic wand will get its real test.

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