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Saks Fifth Avenue’s Latest Strategy: An ‘Invitation to Luxury’

NEW YORK — There’s been soul-searching at Saks Fifth Avenue.It’s been perpetuated by having three owners and a string of...

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"Our brand has to be consistent in every market we serve," she added.

Apparently, the strategy seems headed right at Neiman’s. According to insiders, Saks’ top 10, or so, vendors are precisely the same as Neiman’s, although labels are bought differently and sold in different locations. Chanel, David Yurman, Donna Karan, Ellen Tracy, Ermenegildo Zegna, Escada, Giorgio Armani, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo and St. John are reportedly on the Neiman’s top-10 list. Saks declined to disclose its top 10.

And like Neiman’s, Saks says its sells bridge-to-designer price points. Saks has been able to add designer goods through space increases, renovations and, in some cases, by creating "hard" shops, particularly in accessories, which are permanent installations with the designer’s signature decor.

Saks also has been building up merchandise in the "gold range," including such brands as Peter Cohen, Max Mara and Piazza Sempione, priced above such bridge lines as Ellen Tracy, Dana Buchman and Tahari.

Perhaps the best representation of the new Saks Fifth Avenue at the branch level can be seen in its Las Vegas store, which opened on Nov. 1. The 160,000-square-foot unit — more than twice as large as the unit it replaced — pours on the service and wants customers to feel cozy, with streamlined interiors, warmer colors, extended sight lines and three "living rooms" by the men’s wear, designer and bridge departments, where customers can rest, read, watch TV, have a snack and then do some serious shopping with a personal shopping assistant.

There’s also an array of luxury exclusives, like Penhaligon’s and Lab 21 cosmetics, which tests your DNA for skin type and thereby creates a skin cream just for you, at $250 for a 1.7-oz. jar. At the opening, there was also a vintage bar from a Paris antique show, priced at $42,000.

"We are using Las Vegas for a lot of prototypical work," Johnson noted, meaning new concepts there will be cloned to other Saks locations, and categories considered growth opportunities are more generously spaced. Designer square footage grew to 8,400 square feet, from 2,300 square feet in the previous store, with such labels as Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Issey Miyake, Burberry, Céline, Moschino, Ralph Lauren, Vera Wang, Badgley Mischka, Marc Jacobs, Jean Paul Gaultier, Dolce & Gabbana, Voyage and Viktor & Rolf. The home area grew to 4,200 square feet, from 200 square feet; fine jewelry went to 4,000 square feet, from 524 square feet, and men’s — primarily sportswear — expanded to 12,600 square feet, from 4,400 square feet.
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