The Neiman Marcus Group sold to private investors in early October for $100 a share, fetching the largest price ever for any retailer. Sitting pretty at the helm of the Neiman Marcus stores, CEO Karen Katz pointed out in an Oct. 31 visit with Mays marketing graduate students that the luxury store’s careful cultivation of customers and high-impact sales associates are what made it such a valuable buy.

In 2004 the high-end retailer earned $555 per square foot of space in its 35 stores, compared to an average of $200 a foot at competitor Nordstrom’s, making Dallas-based Neiman Marcus a model of efficiency. Sales associates at Neiman receive the most training (200 hours in the first year) of any of the major luxury stores, and turnover from the self-motivated sales workforce is the lowest in the industry, at 35 percent compared to the industry-average 67 percent.

That translates to excellent customer service, the kind in which the target Neiman shopper — the high-income, middle-aged woman — is served in the dressing room or receives items in the mail from watchful sales associates.

But Katz said it’s the stores’ commitment to appeal to up-and-coming customers that shows the most opportunity for growth. “We want to attract aspirational customers and help them understand why they need to shop at Neiman Marcus,” she said. “We need to capture them as their wealth begins to accumulate.”

Katz is the dapper first-ever woman CEO of Neiman Marcus who was rejected, fresh out of college, in her first application to the retailer’s training program — “Success is sweet revenge,” she jokes. After helping initiate the online sales push and overseeing catalog services in Neiman Marcus Direct, she now handles 71 percent of the Neiman Marcus Group as CEO of the stores division.

Showcasing the hottest sellers for the fall, Katz pointed to a market segment the stores hope to wedge into: men’s fashion, as premium velvet jackets for both men and women flew off the shelves. Men are the first to drop fashion from their must-have list when the economy is shaky, but Neiman wants them to find it as essential as any other consumer items.

After all, they’ll need a new jacket to look good next fall. And helping make sure they do is what gets Katz out of bed every morning.

“I’m passionate about merchandising,” she says, with a broad smile. “A great piece of leather gets me going, a great handbag makes me soar… selling velvet jackets to men keeps me at it every day.”

Categories: Departments, Faculty, Students

Howard W. Horne ’47, vice chairman of Cushman & Wakefield of Texas, has joined the Houston Business Journal‘s Heavy Hitters Hall of Fame, which recognizes exemplary individuals who have had a lasting impact on the Houston commercial real estate community through their contributions and character.

Horne transformed a two-man real estate firm into a 250-member firm specializing in commercial, industrial and office building. Read more about Horne’s accomplishments at .

Categories: Former Students

Mays Business School graduate Ryan Richards posted the best performance on a CPA exam among all new recipients of the CPA certificate in Texas. He spoke on behalf of all the new CPAs at the annual swearing-in ceremony in Austin this November.

In addition to Richards, 2003 graduate Joseph LoSurdo IV came in 6th on the list of the state’s top 10 CPA candidates for 2005. The rest of the A&M accounting and five-year Professional Program participants who took the CPA this year aren’t too far behind: Mays graduates rank second in the state when it comes to passing the exam.

Mays’ average 62 percent pass rate for all parts of the CPA exam taken from October 2004 to October 2005 was well above the national average and a close second in Texas to the University of Texas. Mays graduates beat out all other Texas schools in key sections of the CPA exam during the most recent quarterly testing period, according to data from the State Board of Public Accountancy.

“I think our best can compete with the best from any business program,” said Richards, a director with Big-Four accounting giant KPMG in New York after only three years with the firm. “The folks I encountered in the program were driven to succeed.”

Richards earned his BBA in accounting and completed his master’s degree in finance in 2001 through the Professional Program at Mays. Richards said he scored highest in the auditing portion of the CPA exam — but only because of training from his auditing professor. “Mays does have great instructors,” he says. “I’ve never audited a day in my life.”

In the July-August 2004 test period, Mays students passed 64 percent of parts taken as compared to 45 percent from candidates from all other Texas universities.

When it came to the regulation section of the July-August 2005 test, Mays graduates had a stellar 68 percent pass rate compared to the state average (not including A&M scores) of 43 percent. In business environments and concepts, they earned a 78 percent pass rate compared to an overall 48 percent state average. The results showed similar feats in financial accounting and reporting (62 percent compared to 50 percent) and attestation (55 percent compared to 45 percent).

“The remarkable performance of our graduates on the CPA exam reflects the combination of bright, highly motivated students, a dedicated faculty and a contemporary curriculum,” says Jim Benjamin, accounting department head. “I am particularly proud that our program is one of the top producers nationally of entrants to the accounting profession.”

Categories: Departments, Faculty, Programs, Students

The 100 fastest-growing Aggie-owned and Aggie-operated businesses have a $3.3 billion impact on their areas and employ 17,000 in the United States and Canada. They know how to make a difference in their fields and in the lives of those who work for them.

For the first time, Texas A&M honored the accomplished leaders of these companies — who hold degrees from A&M in everything from liberal arts to engineering — in Aggie 100 celebrations on campus in late October.

“There is no better place to start dreaming than at Texas A&M,” A&M President Robert M. Gates said during the inaugural Aggie 100 gathering. “The skills set these folks attained is from more than just books. It’s from a culture, the Aggie culture. The greatest sign of a university is the success its students achieve.”

Born over a conversation at breakfast, the Aggie 100 concept was pioneered by members of Mays Business School’s Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship (CNVE) advisory board. If cities can honor their top businesses, the group mused, why can’t a university with a growing entrepreneurial tradition do the same? Basing the criteria on growth as an indicator of job creation, product acceptance and entrepreneurial vision, CNVE and its partners collected more than 700 nominations for the list.

The Aggie 100 businesses were ranked based on compounded growth rates from the most recent two-year reporting period. Each nominee must have been in business five years or more by 2005, another business indicator that celebrates staying power as well as growth.

Of the 100, 29 were run by business graduates. That includes the 2nd fastest-growing business, Granbury-based CareerPhysician, run by marketing and management graduate Wesley Millican ’92. CareerPhysician posted an astounding 107.4 percent growth rate from 2002 to 2004.

Read more about the Aggie 100 and find a full list of honorees at

Categories: Centers, Former Students