Neiman Marcus moves to Georgetown

Cusp, a Neiman Marcus corporate boutique that captured the fancy of shoppers in McLean, Virginia and Los Angeles, California is scheduled to open this month in Georgetown.

Georgetown has long been a favorable destination for boutique shopping. With the recent addition of corporate boutiques, larger scale department stores are trying to take a share of the area’s intimate shopping experience by bringing in their concept stores, or “corporate” boutiques.

As real estate is scarce in Georgetown, large scale department stores must scale down in size and way up in concept to get a foothold in one of the region’s most affluent communities.

Juanita Crabb, the Executive Director for the Georgetown Business Improvement District, says “Here [Georgetown] we are a national historic district, its not like clearing a couple of blocks or acres of land like with a mall, the history has to be respected”

As a result, concept stores can do what Crabb calls offering “… a selection of what large stores offer but to a particular customer”.

Barney’s Co-op, the concept store for Barney’s New York, originally began as a department within the department store. Eventually it became freestanding entity carrying trendy apparel and accessories for a younger more fashion conscious crowd, like Marc Jacob’s less expensive line MARC.

Co-op opened last February at 3040 M St. in Georgetown in a two floor loft-inspired space. The open concept provides a floor for men, a floor for women, and shelving for shoes and handbags.

Neiman Marcus, Barney’s long -time competitor has joined in the trend and launched its Cusp store in July at Tyson’s Corner Center in July. Its success has led to the opening of another store at Century City in Los Angeles, the Georgetown store to be opening on M street, and another to be opening by this summer in a yet to be determined location.

Cusp, as does Barney’s Co-op, targets a younger demographic than their parent stores. The Cusp location in Tyson’s Corner Center presents merchandise in an open concept with bright colors, very different from the up-tight beige department store.

The Cusp store also tries innovative merchandising tactics like hanging handbags from bungee clips and cord fastened to the ceiling or displaying shoes and accessories on tree stumps. It’s the kind of place where you can find that perfect Cynthia Steffe little black dress for a night of partying or an awesome pair of Marc Jacobs patent leather flats for running errands.

Adding to their target of a younger audience, instead of a traditional website, Cusp has launched a blog, where customers can get news and information on the store. The frequently updated blog, allows visitors to leave comments on the new merchandise and trends posted by the site.

According to Aubryn Thompson, the director of public information for the Georgetown BID, chain boutiques like Cusp are adding to the prestige of the area. Thompson says “We don’t see them as competition at all but complimentary to each other.”

Thompson says about Cusp and others that they are “…branding Georgetown as a shoppers destination”, as well as “…setting the standard as for bringing other chain and corporate boutiques to the area”.