Neiman Marcus is hoping to attract new customers with a recently-launched outlet-like chain of stores called Last Call Studio. Unlike the traditional outlet, however, the stores will not sell overstock; instead, they will offer lower-priced clothes and accessories designed specifically for the store. As the New York Times reports, “The new Studio stores will carry lower-end products, bought directly from vendors, not the scuffed but still new pair of Manolo Blahniks (as high as $1,995 at Neiman’s) that can show up at Last Call stores (for about two-thirds as much). That is in part because there is not much clearance inventory left.”
The stores’ atmosphere was described in a press release as, “an environment that is a retail hybrid of a boutique and an outlet…featur[ing] unique design elements such as track lighting, polished concrete floors with color-blocked area rugs and cohesive merchandise groupings.”
High-end brands opening discount branches is an industry-wide trend. As the CEO of Lord & Taylor told the Wall Street Journal, these stores are, “a way to further expand your relationship with your existing customer…and to reach out to a new customer, who isn’t as affluent and who may be younger.”
Last Call Studio’s direct-to-outlet merchandise is also available online at lastcall.com. And while it’s less expensive than what’s retailing at Neiman Marcus, it’s still far from cheap.
At left, an Elizabeth and James leather slingback, available on neimanmarcus.com for $350. At right, an Elizabeth and James woven pump, available on lastcall.com for $299 (and, through tomorrow night, you can take an additional 25% off).
So far, the few test stores that the company has opened seem to be doing well. In June, Dallas News reported that Neiman execs were, “pleased with shopper response to merchandise that’s discounted but purchased specifically for the store.” If customer demand for these types of discount shops remains strong, true outlet stores may be a thing of the past. So what should we call the new pseudo-outlets? Hybrid stores?