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Tuesday, June 20, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Big spenders on Eastside draw Neiman Marcus back

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

Not many stores have customers who debate buying a $5,700 cellphone or a $2,295 cashmere robe and end up taking both home.

And while not many cities have stores with such extravagance, Bellevue is going to become home to one.

Neiman Marcus, the Dallas-based department-store chain known for high fashion and luxury brands with matching price tags, Monday announced plans to return to the Puget Sound market with a new location at The Bravern, a mixed-use, high-rise development in downtown Bellevue that broke ground last month.

The 125,000-square-foot store, scheduled to open in March 2009, will anchor the retail segment of The Bravern. The project is slated to include other retail space and high-end boutiques. Two "grand arrival courts" on 110th Avenue Northeast and Northeast Eighth Street will serve shoppers with valet parking.

The planned three-story storefront will mark Neiman's second foray in the Northwest. The Galleries of Neiman Marcus opened in 1999 at Westlake Center in downtown Seattle and closed in 2002. The company said poor sales prompted the closure of the store, which sold jewelry, home accessories and gifts.

Company officials said then they would be interested in returning to the Seattle area, and it was the big spenders on the Eastside that brought the retailer back, according to Ginger Reeder, vice president of corporate communications for Neiman Marcus.

Even with hometown retailer Nordstrom having a hold on much of the upscale market here, she said her company has the potential to do well in the area.

Neiman Marcus


Founded: In 1907 by Herbert Marcus; his sister, Carrie Marcus Neiman; and her husband, A.L. Neiman. They started with $25,000 to open their first store in downtown Dallas.

You may know them as: The Neiman Marcus Group is privately held and comprised of the Specialty Retail stores division — which includes 36 Neiman Marcus stores, 18 Last Call clearance centers and 2 Bergdorf Goodman stores in Manhattan — and Neiman Marcus Direct, which operates print catalog and online operations under the Neiman Marcus, Horchow home-furnishings and Bergdorf Goodman brand names. The company also owns majority interests in two designer resources: Kate Spade and Laura Mercier cosmetics.

How big they are: Annual sales estimated at $3.8 billion; largest store is on Union Square in San Francisco, at 251,000 square feet.

You may know them for: Their legendary Christmas Book catalog with his-and-her matching gifts, started in 1960 by Stanley Marcus and his brother Edward.

Source: Neiman Marcus

"We're in lots of similar malls where Nordstrom is our neighbor and we've found that we complement each other very well," Reeder said. "We've certainly been looking at coming back to Seattle for a while."

On the average, Eastsiders make and spend more than other King County residents. A recent Scarborough Research report showed that households east of Lake Washington make an average of $81,750, compared with a county average of $64,510. The same report showed residents in those higher-income areas also tend to spend more on clothing, cosmetics and jewelry.

Those demographics were key to landing Neiman Marcus, said Dan Ivanoff, managing investment partner at Schnitzer Northwest, the project's developer.

"Nine of the 10 richest ZIP codes in the area aren't in Seattle. They're here on the Eastside," he said. "People here want luxury."

Make that luxury with a capital L, with items such as a $4,695 peacock-shaped clutch and a $375 gilded family Bible for sale.

The Bravern will be two blocks from Bellevue Square and Lincoln Square, the marquee shopping malls on the Eastside developed by Kemper Freeman.

Rumors about Neiman Marcus coming to the Eastside have been circulating for weeks.

Robert Spector, a Seattle retail historian and co-author of "The Nordstrom Way," doesn't foresee Neiman Marcus as a threat to Nordstrom.

"Although they have some overlapping merchandise, Neiman Marcus has a niche of upscale customers that Nordstrom doesn't cater to," he said.

Nordstrom shoppers leaving the company's Bellevue Square store Monday said they were interested in Neiman Marcus but said the store has a lot to live up to.

"I wouldn't mind checking it out," said Cindy Marum of Bellevue, a self-described "semiregular" Nordstrom shopper.

"Customer service is very important, but I do look at prices and like to find a bargain a lot of the time. I like being able to consider another option."

While anticipating competition, Nordstrom is confident about its place in the Seattle-area market, according to spokeswoman Deniz Anders.

"We have a lot of respect for them and think it'll play out well," she said.

Spector said he sees the Neiman name drawing customers from outside the region, especially in under-served markets such as Oregon, Montana, Idaho and Eastern Washington.

Tom Woodworth, senior investment director for The Bravern, said the regional draw of Neiman Marcus for luxury consumers has been important as he negotiates leases for the site. The developers are looking to sign at least four restaurants, fill 750,000 square feet of office space and sell about 450 upscale residential condominiums.

A boutique hotel with about 150 rooms is planned for space beneath one of the condominium towers. Plans also include 3,200 parking stalls in an underground garage.

Nathan Hurst: 206-464-2112 or nhurst@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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