Burt Tansky discovered a customer who loved luxury in 1974 after he left       regional department stores in the Rust Belt to work for San       Francisco-based specialty retailer I. Magnin.

For the next three and a half decades, he never left her side.

“Once I got into the luxury business, I was enamored with the idea of selling fine merchandise to a customer who understands it,” said Tansky,  72, who is preparing to retire as chief executive of Neiman Marcus Inc. after 21 years with the Dallas-based company. “I knew it was for me.”

His 49-year retailing résumé includes serving as president of Saks Fifth Avenue and CEO of Bergdorf Goodman.

The last few years were supposed to be his last hurrah, exiting with     Neiman Marcus at the top of the luxury game. But it ended up being some     of the most difficult years in Tansky’s career as the worst recession     since the Depression sucked billions of dollars out of high-end retail     and luxury brands, including more than $1 billion in sales from Neiman     Marcus.

At an industry meeting in New York a couple of weeks after a disastrous       2008 holiday season, Tansky admitted that he “didn’t know wallets could     hibernate.” But he also knew the luxury buyer would be back.

That steadfast belief in maintaining Neiman Marcus’ focus on high-priced     designer goods, for knowing his customer still desired the best, is one     of Tansky’s legacies.

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