Neiman Marcus on Tuesday announced a couple of mid-level appointments that hint at a major overhaul of the department store's customer experience, a phrase that appears in their new titles. The new executives join Carrie Tharp, recently elevated to chief digital officer, and two recent hires — former Sephora and Louis Vuitton executive Stefanie Tsen as senior vice president of omnichannel customer experience and former Tori Burch and Apple executive Matt Marcotte as Bergdorf Goodman 's chief operating officer.
David Goubert, appointed executive vice president, stores and retail experience, will report to CEO Geoffroy van Raemdonck and is responsible for "creating personalized, seamless and magical experiences for the Neiman Marcus customer," according to a company press release. He arrives from French luxury conglomerate LVMH, where he spent 20 years, most recently at its Starboard Cruise Services division.
Ginger Mollo was named senior vice president of retail experience for the West Coast, "responsible for elevating the customer experience and piloting innovative new customer engagement tools and events" and is reporting to Goubert, the company also said. She has spent the last 18 years at Apple, where she held multiple senior management roles in its retail stores division.
Neiman Marcus's flagship and its Bergdorf Goodman banner have long operated as upscale department stores, but in his statement Tuesday, van Raemdonck seemed to imply that the company's footing has slipped in that space.
"We are transforming the Neiman Marcus Group into a luxury customer platform – focused on customer engagement across a luxury lifestyle," he said. "To do this, we believe innovation starts at the top, and we continue to recruit executives with outstanding performance track records who come from the best in class customer and digital-centric organizations to accelerate our transformation."
Van Raemdonck is solidifying his own team after taking the reins from CEO Karen Katz last year, as store comps have recently edged into more favorable territory. Last month, for example, the company announced that longtime chief merchant Jim Gold is set to depart in March. Innovation and the customer experience are clearly in his focus, but it remains to be seen how much runway the company has in light of its debt load. Late last year, the department store tussled with its lenders in court, and its creditors have become increasingly alarmed over the roughly $4.5 billion long-term debt load that it's working to refinance.
That distraction hampered the kind of innovation that the company now seems keen to achieve, according to Scott Emmons, who led the company's "Innovation Lab" and left last month. In an opinion piece for the Business of Fashion, Emmons took aim at the very concepts that van Raemdonck amplified on Tuesday, including "'retail innovation,' 'the store of the future' and 'digital-first customer experience.'"
"'Yet we know that retailers are far from delivering what they must to guard against doomsday scenarios for physical stores," he wrote. "After 16 years working for a top luxury retailer, I can say with confidence that traditional players in the US and abroad are not innovating the right way. Processes are broken, execution is too slow, politics stalls decision-making and resources are too scarce."