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Department store div. drives Saks Inc. growth

NEW YORK — At the Banc of America's Consumer Conference last week, Saks Inc. spoke individually about its Saks Department Store Group and Saks Fifth Avenue.

The department store group, which contains 243 regional traditional department stores in 23 states, is "a bigger piece from a revenue standpoint," said Brad Martin, chairman and ceo.

The company has reworked several merchandising areas, he said. "We're repositioning our business on more items and less on collections. We've edited vendors and added vendors." The group is also focusing more on non-apparel business.

Saks Department Stores' proprietary brands have also done well, he said, which includes livingQUARTERS, its home brand. Starting from zero in 1997, the private labels brought in almost $500 million in 2000, or about 12.5 percent of the company's total sales.

The company also implemented service strategies, such as increasing the staff level. More than 100 stores were reconfigured to have a customer service zone, which is always staffed. It also consolidated three distribution centers into one.

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