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Photo: Getty Images

Neiman Marcus CEO Karen Katz is stepping down from her role, the Wall Street Journal reports, after the luxury retailer reported declining same-store sales in eight of the previous nine quarters, while consistently losing money since the summer of 2016.

Why it matters: The decade-long boom in luxury retail is slowing, but Neiman Marcus' struggles are also related to it being acquired by private-equity groups that saddled the firm with nearly $5 billion in debt, and which has hindered the company's ability to finance long-term investments.

Luxury retailers have generally thrived following the financial crisis, as they sell tightly-distributed goods, and have been able to avoid the loss of pricing power that has plagued online retailers.

  • Baby Boomers reaching the age of peak spending power also helped power the Dow Jones Luxury index more than 300% higher between 2009 and 2014, but success in the sector since that time has been mixed.
  • Companies like Hudson's Bay, owner of Sach's Fifth Avenue, have been forced to cut employees this year, while Nordstrom has been plagued by falling same-store sales.

But Neiman Marcus' woes are also linked to the alacrity with which its private equity sponsors have piled on debt to the company's balance sheet in order to finance a 2013 takeover of the luxury retailer.

  • The firm announced its first quarter of same-store sales growth in November, but its fifth-straight quarter of earnings declines.
  • Boosters of private equity say that the added debt, which finances their acquisitions, helps focus companies operations and gives firms tax advantages.
  • But a number of retailers are exemplifying the risk of too much borrowing, as unexpected downturns can imperial their ability to invest or even pay their bills.

Go deeper

Axios AM Deep Dive: Pandemic eating

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A food revolution began pre-pandemic and COVID has only accelerated that. See how America's food industry is transforming, from farm to your table.

Abrams’ campaign manager rules out 2024 run if she wins governor's race

Photo: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

In her first major interview since the official announcement, Stacey Abrams' campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo quashed speculation that the Georgia Democrat would interrupt a theoretical gubernatorial term to run for president in 2024.

Why it matters: Abrams' name has come up repeatedly as a top 2024 Democratic contender given President Joe Biden's age and Vice President Kamala Harris's low favorability rating.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Updated 60 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Trump social media group raises $1 billion from undisclosed investors

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Donald Trump's social media startup on Saturday announced that it secured $1 billion in new investment as part of its ongoing efforts to become publicly traded via a blank check company.

Between the lines: None of the investors were identified, which is highly unusual for this sort of transaction.