On Thursday, Neiman Marcus’ rolled out a slew of sustainability-related announcements timed to Earth Day. Among them: Fashionphile, the handbag resale platform that Neiman Marcus owns a minority stake in, developed a new app to be used by the retailer’s personal stylists.
The app gives stylists who work with high-end clients access to an exclusive Fashionphile interface. The app lets them resell their clients’ bags and accessories, and track their commissions on every sale. Closet curation and the removal of old pieces to make way for new things is just as important a part of a stylist’s job as the acquisition of new items, said Fashionphile founder Sarah Davis.
Personal styling services are big money makers for luxury retailers, and with the losses many department stores suffered during the pandemic, new tech innovations that make styling and selling easier are becoming popular investments.
Davis said that, while working with clients, a Neiman Marcus stylist can suggest that a certain item be sold through Fashionphile, get a quote for the client from the app and then pick up the item from the client. They’d then take care of all the aspects of selling, like the photography and the listing write-up, and take a commission from the sale. The client would receive Neiman Marcus credit for the sale price.
Davis said the top Neiman Marcus stylists drive millions of dollars of business each year. She knows some who have attended clients’ children’s graduations or who regularly go golfing with their clients. Because of that relationship, and knowing clients’ preferences and wardrobes, they can make educated suggestions about what to sell and advise customers on where to put their money after offloading older items.
Davis said Neiman Marcus has been eager to get the program off the ground. It’s been a pilot program since 2019, as soon as it began its relationship with Fashionphile. The pilot version of the app was similar to the standard Fashionphile user experience. Davis said suggestions from the stylists testing it led to the addition of new features like organizing multiple clients’ accounts on one screen.
“Department stores are struggling,” Davis said. “But Neiman Marcus is very forward-looking. What they need is an elevated service that saves their high-value clients time. For these clients, their stylists play a huge role in what they buy.”
During the pandemic, personal shopping and styling services served as lifelines for department stores when regular in-store browsing was nonexistent or severely limited. In 2020, Neiman Marcis’ virtual styling clients spent $60 million every three months, according to Neiman Marcus. And the retailer debuted several new features meant to bring in more clients, like an online matching service that pairs clients and stylists.
Outside of Neiman Marcus, new tech tools have made personal styling more viable in the pandemic. Luxury retailers including Farfetch and Nordstrom have begun working with virtual styling service Wishi in the last few months. Other tech platforms for digital clienteling services like Hero, Tulip and Seer saw upward of 200% growth in 2020 thanks to interest from luxury retailers.
While Neiman Marcus was one of the retailers hit hard by the pandemic, the company has been making slow progress out of bankruptcy. In September, it eliminated $4 billion in debt and lowered its annual interest payments by $30 million through restructures like spinning off its MyTheresa e-commerce unit.