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Neiman Marcus buys Seattle tech company that helps it blend stores and online shopping


Neiman Marcus is buying a Seattle-based technology company that helped it ramp up its remote selling during the pandemic and said it plans to make several more investments to build out its capabilities.

The Dallas-based luxury retailer said Tuesday that it will acquire Stylyze Inc., a developer of a machine-learning selling platform, but didn’t disclose a price. Neiman Marcus said that the acquisition is part of a three-year plan to invest more than $500 million to help strengthen its digital business, which also includes shifting its warehouse operations from Irving to Dallas’ Pinnacle Park.

Neiman Marcus’ debt-shedding bankruptcy reorganization completed last year makes it easier to pursue the digital strategy. At the end of April, Neiman Marcus had $1.1 billion in debt vs. the $5.1 billion it had a year ago before its financial restructuring. The company gave a snapshot of its newfound flexibility: $850 million of cash versus $132 million this time last year. It also has a $900 million credit line that it hasn’t tapped.

Neiman Marcus has been working with Stylyze since 2018, and it’s an important company behind the retailer’s remote-selling “Connect” platform that more than 3,000 store stylists use to integrate digital with physical shopping.

Since the launch of Connect, selling associates have completed more than 5 million engagement sessions and placed hundreds of thousands of orders on the platform. Neiman Marcus stepped up the use of the tool when its stores were closed during the pandemic.

“We knew the rebound was coming, and we’ve been experiencing the return of luxury as it accelerates,” Neiman Marcus CEO Geoffroy van Raemdonck said. “By acquiring Stylyze, we will be able to advance our strategy of integrated luxury, building long-term relationships with our luxury customers.”

A Neiman Marcus men’s stylist uses the Connect platform to help a customer shop remotely.

Comparable sales in the retailer’s fiscal third quarter that ended in April were flat compared with 2019 and ahead of plan. As it reaches pre-pandemic sales performance, e-commerce sales have increased to 35% from a historical level of about 30%. About 12 million customers a month visit NM.com, and the retailer added 263,000 new customers in the third quarter.

While it has more competition that it did just a few years ago from brands selling direct to consumers and the resale of luxury goods, van Raemdonck said Neiman Marcus is still the largest luxury e-commerce business in the U.S., and customer service has to excel online as it does in stores.

That’s why it’s planning to make acquisitions that give it proprietary tools, he said. “Luxury is not a self-service model, and great service can be given digitally, too, and we are finding ways to equip our associates.”

The average Neiman Marcus store salesperson has been with the company nine years and sells $750,000 worth of merchandise a year, he said, because they’ve built customer relationships.

The acquisition of Stylyze is expected to be completed this fall.

Kristen Miller, CEO and co-founder of Stylyze, said her staff is ready to rapidly develop “unique and distinct digitally enabled” services for the retailer.

Bob Kupbens, Neiman Marcus chief product and technology officer, said the two companies now have a “shared alignment” and plan to explore integrating Connect with other digital tools including e-commerce, mobile apps, messaging, chat and phone calls.

Having Miller and her staff together with Kupbens, who before joining Neiman Marcus in February had worked in customer experiences at Apple, eBay and Delta Airlines, makes it easier for Neiman Marcus to recruit, van Raemdonck said. “Talent attracts talent.”

Twitter: @MariaHalkias

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