Retailing executive Stanley Marcus, who led Neiman Marcus for decades, dies at 96

Wednesday, January 23rd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DALLAS (AP) _ Stanley Marcus, the man who turned the Neiman Marcus department store into a symbol of luxury and taste, had a philosophy as elegant as his stores.

``I do believe the best is discernible to the observant eye,'' he once said.

During a 50-year career at Neiman Marcus, his very name became synonymous with that philosophy, setting an industry standard for customer service and high-end merchandise.

Marcus, the chairman emeritus of the company, died Tuesday with family members at his side, a spokeswoman for Stanley Marcus Consultancy said. He was 96.

``Today we've lost an icon and patriarch in the business,'' said Walter Loeb, publisher of the Loeb Retail Letter.

Marcus' father founded the company in 1907 in downtown Dallas along with his sister and her husband, Al Neiman. They promised in an advertisement to bring ``the best and finest of women's fashions from all over the world,'' Marcus recalled in a 1995 Associated Press interview.

``Somebody probably laughed at it the time, but that was their idea and that's what they did,'' he said.

The younger Marcus was educated at Harvard and took over as the company's secretary, treasurer and director in 1926, at age 21. He went on to become executive vice president, president, chairman of the board, chief executive officer and chairman of the executive committee. Marcus retired from the company in 1975 as chairman emeritus.

Early Neiman Marcus customers included cowboys, Indians and women from rural outposts in Texas where land had yielded oil.

Over the years, the store became a pioneer in the retail market. In the 1920s, it was the first to offer personalized gift wrapping for customers and created the first weekly retail fashion show in the country. In 1960, it also started a Christmas tradition of exotic his-and-her gifts, which continues today.

``Anybody who's selling perfection has an obligation to deliver it,'' Marcus said.

``I don't believe in becoming a nut as some people are about fashion,'' he said. ``Fashion is something a person should enjoy. I think they enhance their enjoyment by knowing something about it.''

Neiman Marcus became the first retail apparel store outside New York to advertise in national fashion magazines. Vogue magazine in 1953 described the store as ``Texas with a French accent.''

``He did more than anyone to establish Dallas as a fashion center,'' said Henry S. Miller, a Dallas real estate titan and Marcus' cousin. ``That's meant a lot to the city economically and to the city's reputation.''

Today, Neiman Marcus has 32 stores nationwide, from Honolulu to Beverly Hills, Calif., to Boston.

``His overwhelming desire to surpass the customer's expectations was instrumental to the success of the store,'' Neiman Marcus said in a statement. ``We will miss his friendship and counsel; however, his legacy will endure.''

During the company's growth, Marcus served as a consultant, book publisher, lecturer, and founder-trustee of the Stanley and Linda Marcus Foundation, which benefits endeavors of art and culture.

In 1974, he wrote the best seller ``Minding the Store: A Memoir.''

Marcus is survived by his wife of 22 years, Linda Cumber Robinson Marcus; three children; 10 grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren.