A Memoir for Nemoir
Cecile Corral -- Home Textiles Today, January 8, 2014
In 45 years, Mike Nemoir has never left the building here in Milwaukee at 2400 N. Mayfair Rd., in a manner of speaking. "I've never been outside the company," Mike Nemoir, senior vp and general merchandise manager of home and men's at The Bon-Ton Stores Inc. told H&TT. "I am the person who has been here the longest. By far. Now I have superseded anyone else here."
Nemoir has survived six ownerships of the company. He joined the business in 1968 when it was called The Boston Store and throughout his career has held various positions within the home category that ultimately led him to his current post, which he assumed in 1995.
Now, after a long career dotted with achievements and "many proud moments," Nemoir, who turns 68 at the end of this month, is ready to retire come March 28.
In an exclusive interview with H&TT, the affable Nemoir said he didn't know much about retailing when he got into the field. "But I quickly gained a tremendous passion for it, and I learned a lot. This business has challenged me consistently, and what makes me proudest is that I have been able to survive all the changes and been able to develop a business strategy that is successful and ongoing and have worked with wonderful people, which is one of the most exciting parts of it all - the people, both internally and externally."
Over time, Nemoir has seen his share of evolutions in the industry - many of them good, he said.
"One big thing that has definitely been good is the use of computers and the way we get information and the speed in which we receive it," he said. "I also think the landscape and how the competition has evolved has really changed retailing for the better. The big boxes have forced everyone to be more competitive and more focused on who they want to be."
And then there is the internet. "The web will probably be one of the most important things that will challenge us going forward." For the full scope of his career, home has been Nemoir's charge.
"I grew up in the home store," he said, "and I've enjoyed working in all parts of the home - textiles, housewares - and they are all extremely exciting and invigorating. There's always a lot of new products, a lot of innovation, and the business is constantly changing."
But the highlight for him has been the home textiles component.
"Textiles are the backbone of the home store," he added. "Textiles are the most profitable area and also the fashion leader in home. So it's always been very important that textiles get center stage and that it grows."
Having started his career at the age of 23, Nemoir had many mentors, and named two among his "biggest influences": Stan Bluestone, a former ceo of the company when it was known as P.A. Bergner in the 1980s; and Bob Bender, who was his gmm until about 1995, when he left the company.
"Both of them exhibited great vision and were very strategic in their thinking," Nemoir noted. "They were outstanding leaders and demonstrated great leadership and motivation."
Living and learning is part of every career, and one he said vendors must do as well to survive and succeed. To them, he offered some advice.
"Vendors need to know who they want to be, what do they want to come to market with. They need to be extremely knowledgeable and know how they want to grow and develop their business, both in brick and mortar and on the internet. They need to adapt quickly, be flexible," Nemoir said. "And most of all, they must be innovative with their product."
Among department stores, he noted, Macy's "is doing very well with that in their attempts with their My Macy's program."
By the time Nemior leaves Bon-Ton in spring, he will have marked another important milestone - 45 years with his wife Dorine, who he married one week before he embarked on his career.
He will be devoting time to her, their three children and eight grandchildren in his retirement. He also plans to travel.
First, a trip to Scotland for golf, followed in September by a trip to Italy. In 2015, he will take his wife to Australia and New Zealand. She's always wanted to go, "but we never could because you can never take three weeks off in retailing."
So with so much to look forward to, why is he waiting until March to retire?
"I wanted to make sure I finished some things I was working on here before I left, and I really wanted to go to the Chicago International Home and Housewares Show [March 15 to 18] one more time."
Mike Nemoir landed his fi rst job at retail at The Boston Store a week after he got married. The company has changed hands several times over the course of his career, but he still works from the same building he entered 45 years ago.
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