Few people with any knowledge of retailing would argue that Stanley Marcus, chairman-emeritus of Neiman-Marcus when he died in 2002 at age 96, was one of the best. Some would put him right at the top. Once when I interviewed Marcus in the men´s department of the Atlanta Neiman-Marcus store — where else? — I found I could have listened to his views and opinions for hours. The following won´t take hours, but here are three tidbits of wisdom from the great retailer, taken from his 1995 book, "The Viewpoints of Stanley Marcus A Ten-Year Perspective," ( University of North Texas Press, Denton, Texas)
1. What´s in a business name? "It´s not the name that makes or breaks a new business. It is the quality and value of the product and the integrity of its service, plus its financial strength to hang on during the first few years of growth." In this day of impersonalized conglomerates, Marcus wrote, naming a business after the owner is a good way for the smaller business to signal to its potential customers that it has an owner who is waiting to provide them with a maximum of personal service, before and after the sale.
2. On technology. "Computers are wonderful inventions, but their buttons extract only stored facts. They cannot handle the daily situations where the deal is clinched or the situation saved because somebody cared enough to do some independent thinking. So far, none of the great computer makers have come up with one that can be plugged into an ear or stuck in the mouth to determine if the customer has been satisfied."
3. The endangered salesperson. "Professionals make the hard things look easy. A professional salesperson knows where the merchandise is located, what´s in stock, what´s coming in, what will meet your needs, what won´t. Customers do not have time these days to deal with salespeople in any field who are amateurs, who waste time, who are more concerned with their commissions than with the buyer´s benefits. A good sales organization is nearly always the result of an enlightened management that chooses its staff with care, educates it with diligence, supervises it constantly, compensates it fairly and rewards unusual performance by understanding that human beings live not by bread alone.
It´s clear why Marcus was one of the best.