DALLAS — If you grew up in Dallas, chances are you have a Neiman Marcus memory.
Rawlins Gilliland remembers as a child taking the bus downtown from the Knox Henderson neighborhood and just walking through the luxury department store, known as much for its clothing as its restaurant and overall experience.
"It was a taste level you were witnessing," Gilliland said, recalling noticing even the way the store focused its lighting on where customers walked.
For Gilliland, his youthful fascination turned into an 18-year career with the iconic Dallas company. He started in sales in women's couture and worked his way up the ranks.
"In 1994, I became the regional sales director for the company and then in 1996, the national director of sales and product," he said.
His admiration for the company still stands.
Neiman Marcus opened in 1907 at the corner of Elm and Murphy, later moving its flagship store to Main and Ervay streets, where it still sits today.
"I can remember when I was a little kid, every year we’d wait to see what the Neiman Marcus Christmas gift would be because it’d be so crazy and over the top," said Mike Davis, a professor at the Southern Methodist University Cox School of Business.
But the luxury retailer, part of Dallas' identity for 113 years now, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Thursday.
"Neiman Marcus Group wasn’t doing great before the coronavirus pandemic, and I would speculate to say the coronavirus pandemic certainly accelerated those proceedings," said Dallas Business Journal reporter Rebecca Ayers.
Ayers says Neiman's struggles aren't unique; department store models have been struggling for years.
Davis says others may follow suit.
"I can’t predict who’s going to go bankrupt and who’s not, but I can predict some will," he said.
According to its press release, Neiman Marcus Group is saddled with roughly $4 billion in debt, but it hopes to emerge from bankruptcy this fall.
Gilliland wishes the best for his former employer, an icon in Dallas and beyond.
"In the world of retail, Neiman Marcus has no peer. It just has no peer," he said.