Neiman Marcus Targets Gen Y with Cusp

Today's WSJ reports on efforts by tony, stuffy Neiman Marcus to appeal to twenty and thirty-somethings with a new retail store called Cusp, currently located in the tried-and-true retail meccas of Century City, Tysons Corner, and Georgetown.

The mother ship Neiman Marcus brand tries to appeal to fifty-somethings who dress head to toe in matchy-matchy outfits by the same designers and aspire to look like Nancy Reagan. Cusp, with its Ed Hardy t-shirts and Level 99 jeans, is definitely a journey into the unknown for Neimans.

Here's a tip-off that Neiman Marcus knows next to nothing about twenty-somethings. According to the article, it apparently came as a surprise to the CEO of the Neiman Marcus Stores unit that "[m]any Cusp shoppers drop in on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday to pick up outfits to wear that night, unlike Neiman's average 50-year-old shopper, who tends to buy in advance for each season." Have they talked to even 15 twenty-somethings? Five? Two? Of course they pop in at the last second -- that's how Gen Y likes to approach most things. Buying ahead for a whole season? Inconceivable for this age group.

I'm wondering why a retail operation the size of Neiman Marcus didn't know something this basic about its target demographic ahead of time. Doesn't bode well for them. I also wonder if they're trying a little too hard when they quote Lil Mama on their homepage: "Every CUSP girl can relate to Lil Mama when she rhymes: My lip gloss be cool/My lip gloss is poppin'/I'm standing by my locker/And all the boys be stoppin'." How ham-fisted is that? Sounds like a sixty-something retail executive trying to figure out what the Kool Kidz like these days.

Another interesting bit from the article: It quotes a 23-year-old photo editor for the Atlantic Monthly who recently bought a $115 pair of flats at the Cusp store in Georgetown. I'm not privy to what kind of money she makes as a photo editor at a high-brow magazine that caters mostly to people with graduate degrees, but I'm guessing it's not much. How is she able to afford $100+ pairs of shoes? I'm guessing she (1) is living off of mommy and daddy, who should be nudging her to spend their money more wisely or (2) has her head in the sand about her cash flow and is racking up a bunch of credit card debt. I love expensive shoes as much as the next girl, but I'm just saying...

In any event, I hope Cusp gets it right. And moves to my neighborhood.