Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Neiman asks, did the media steal Christmas?


neimanNeiman Marcus chief Burt Tansky had some choice words for retail reporters last night, saying they had unfairly influenced the outcome of the 2008 holiday shopping season well before it even started. He was referring to stories that came out as early as September, like this one, predicting that holiday sales could be the worst in up to two decades because of the bad economy.

“I think the media have done us a terrible disservice,” Tansky said at an evening event sponsored by Financo Inc during the annual National Retail Federation conference in New York, attended by our own Karen Jacobs. “The media, I think, should start thinking about the impact they are having on retail.”
Many of these media stories were based on predictions from leading research groups, such as Deloitte, who gave gloomy forecasts due to the global financial crisis, the U.S. housing slump and credit crunch. 
And when retail chains finally began to take down the tinsel after the holidays, their performance proved even worse than that, with sales dropping for the first time in the nearly 40 years they have been tracked.
We didn’t know it last night, but Tansky may have had other reasons to be piqued than our role in bringing the bad news. Neiman today said it would start making interest payments on some of its senior notes by issuing more debt, rather than using cash, and planned to fire 3 percent of its workforce.
The news comes barely a week after Neiman posted a 31.2 percent drop in same-store sales at its unit that is home to the Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman stores.

(Photo of a Neiman Marcus gift book from a Christmas past: Reuters)