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Ira Neimark

Former Bergdorf CEO Ira Neimark



Ira Neimark started out as a Fifth Avenue doorman and eventually became CEO of Bergdorf Goodman—through hard work, smarts, and being in the right place at the right time. When he took over the venerable fashion store, it was doing $38 million in sales. When he left, $500 million. “It is a gold mine on Fifth Avenue,” he said in his book, Crossing Fifth Avenue. We asked him about some tricks of the trade.

Could you talk a little bit about that Bergdorf transformation?
Well, Bergdorf’s was old, dull, and for the blue-haired set. Not exciting. So we brought the haute couture and the press got interested, the customers got interested, and the business took off. We began adding important fashion designers from France, Italy, and the U.S. and the rest is history.

Who were those designers?
Well, I would say that Fendi, from Italy, was most important because they were very influential, and then Giorgio Armani. Then we convinced Yves Saint Laurent to sell Rive Gauche to us, which was limited.

You also had some great parties.
If you brought a designer in, like Fendi, you announced it to the world—in the Post, Times, Women’s Wear Daily. Whenever we had a fashion show, we wanted movie actors and people like Pavarotti in the audience. That got a lot of press and customers who wanted to come.

How else do you spread the word?
You’ve got to advertise. Repetition is the key. Tiffany’s runs in the same position in the Times, and it works. You’ve got to advertise and you’ve got it do regularly.

Tell me about meeting Princess Diana.
The British Fashion Council held a major ball every six months. Princess Diana was the hostess. I was invited to meet her, so I called Turnbull and Asser and ordered a tie in her favorite color. When we were introduced, instead of saying, “I am glad to meet you,” as most people do, I said, “Your Royal Highness, I went to Turnbull and had this tie made in your honor.” And she said, “Mr. Neimark, the blue tie matches your eyes.”

And then you met her again?
A year later Diana was the hostess at another reception, so I wore the same tie. And she said, “Good evening, Mr. Neimark, you’re wearing our tie.”

Where do companies get it wrong—why did you succeed?
Managing inventory. I think it applies to anything—automobiles, pots and pans, or couture, there has to be a strategy and a tactic as to how much inventory to have at any given time. Most people just hope their old inventory will go away, but it won’t.
 

How do you price things in a recession?
You can’t just cut prices—people will expect those prices once things turnaround. Instead, find ways to add value. If you’re a gas station, wash cars that fill up. A clothing store should bring in designers no one else has. Offer something that no one else does.

How about customer service?
Treat the customer as if she is entering your home. I go into stores now, and it’s appalling. A customer holding a full-page ad goes to the store and can’t find a salesperson. It’s beyond my comprehension. This is a major failing.

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November 2018

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Where:
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Sponsor: Bruce Museum
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1 Museum Dr
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1 Museum Dr
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Sponsor: Bruce Museum
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Contact Name: Scott Smith
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Where:
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370 Beach Road
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1 Museum Dr
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Where:
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1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


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Contact Name: Scott Smith
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More information

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Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
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View map »


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More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
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Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
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More information

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Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
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View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
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Contact Name: Scott Smith
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More information

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Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
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Sponsor: Wall Street Theater
Telephone: 877-987-8764
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Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
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Cost: Free

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Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346
Contact Name: Front Desk
Website »

More information

On August 18, 2018, the Bruce Museum will open A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions. This exhibition will trace the history of the Navajo weaving tradition from the earliest...

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
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Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

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In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
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On August 18, 2018, the Bruce Museum will open A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions. This exhibition will trace the history of the Navajo weaving tradition from the earliest...

Where:
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Telephone: 203-413-6735
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Cost: FREE

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Sponsor: Fairfield Chamber of Commerce
Telephone: 203-255-1011
Contact Name: Krista McCormack
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ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
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1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
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720 Pequot Avenue
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View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346
Contact Name: Front Desk
Website »

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Cost: FREE

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Earth Animal
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Sponsor: Earth Animal
Telephone: 203-557-3322
Contact Name: Brooke Valenti
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