I don’t think I’ve ever set foot in Neiman Marcus. First, they don’t have a store in Kansas City, where I do most of my shopping. Also, I think of them as being really expensive and exclusive. Diane von Furstenberg? Not really my thing.

But my friend and former FleishmanHillard colleague, Joe Brettel, recently shared this Forbes article with me and wanted my two cents, from a “young consumer” marketing perspective.

If you don’t have the time or desire to read the article, here are the highlights:

  • Neiman Marcus has partnered with the popular online retailer, Rent the Runway, to open store-within-a-store RTR shops inside NM locations. (RTR rents high-end designer apparel and accessories and is very popular among millennials.)
  • The idea is to attract new customers to shop in NM stores. Younger shoppers (vs. the typical 51-year-old NM customer) will come in to rent high-end gowns and cocktail apparel, but also find (and purchase) accessories such as handbags, shoes and cosmetics merchandised within the RTR shop.
  • This is also a great solve for some of the six million RTR customers who really want to try on a garment before they rent it. Win-win, right?
  • Skeptics think NM could lose money since customers will chose to rent vs. buy.
  • The article’s author, Walter Loeb, sees it differently. “Adding Rent the Runway into the stores will attract younger, affluent customers, bringing down the average shopping age…It must come down if the retailer is to remain viable.” Indeed, sales have been declining for NM recently.

So Joe, here’s my two cents.

Sounds about right to me! Why fight the current sharing economy trend with millennials (sharing everything from cars, houses, goods & services – even apparel)? If that’s how they want to experience high-end fashion, or the only way they can afford it right now, capitalize on that desire and make it work in your retail environment. Millennials didn’t even have Neiman Marcus on their radar before. Now they do. If NM has something unique to offer, they’ll return. Simple as that.

From a Gen Z perspective (albeit not the target for the RTR/NM collaboration – but where my mind automatically goes), this addresses the younger consumer’s desire to research/shop online but also have a brick-and-mortar retail “experience.” Avid researchers, Gen Z will do their homework upfront about a particular product — visiting a company’s website and social channels, then reading online consumer reviews, comparing prices, etc. But at the end of the day, they want try before they buy; touch/feel products IRL (in real life) before making a financial commitment.

Both millennials and Gen Z also want interesting, engaging in-store experiences that can double as social opportunities with their friends. This is another compelling aspect of the RTR/NM partnership. Customers can enjoy the “RTR Bar” where they can get personalized styling advice and help with orders, etc. I wonder if they’re also considering installing interactive make-up counters, with tutorials, professional application, etc. That would certainly be another draw for Gen Z, who love to experiment with new looks and make-up trends. (This Gen Xer might also enjoy something like that!)

Next time I’m in the vicinity of a Neiman Marcus store, I plan to step inside. I doubt I’ll ever be their target consumer, but they’ve piqued my curiosity and I give them credit for trying something new when so many other retailers are flailing, and failing, with younger consumers.

(Disclosure – the link to the Sharing Economy page above? Before I left FH, I had a hand in that campaign for the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. The sharing economy has real insurance implications, folks. Happy to plug a former client.)