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Saks' Luxury Battle Plan: Focus on Shoppers' Needs To Redefine Retail Image

Saks Fifth Avenue is banking on “world class” customer service to replenish its cache in the fiercely competitive luxury segment.

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The senior leadership in the stores have been reorganized so that it is decentralized, Jennings said, and closer to the customer. In addition, the gmm’s role is focused on top line sales and bottom line earnings before interest and taxes. The upgrade in talent has meant raising the bar on sales associates, which now includes recertification of sales associates every year before they are able to work in the same department as before, Jennings disclosed.

SFA is using a store in Boca Raton, Fla., and one in Boston as laboratories regarding customer acquisition. Store associates are “empowered” to improve the customer experience from use of free personal shopping to stylists. Meanwhile, the retailer is brushing off more conservative approaches to service and merchandising. Saks is also turning its heels on leaders in the high-end segment.

Regarding what’s selling for spring, the retailer said denim is red hot as well as brooches and ponchos. “We were terribly overassorted in all of our stores in the last few years. From breadth to depth, we are teaching people how to buy differently, plan differently, from safe to key item-focused. The advertising is aspirational, now we need the product to support it,” the chief merchant said.

The retailer has also developed a matrix expansion program for every brand, by category. The aim is to “blow out the brand by store and by category over the next three years,” Frasch said.

Frasch foresees growth in designer sportswear and “monstrous” growth in contemporary sportswear. He added that moderate sportswear is a “new zone we’re developing,” and characterized it as an offshoot of bridge. Handbags, Frasch said, is an obvious area of continued growth.

“Saks has changed. Saks is changing,” Frasch told investors.
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