• Andrea Lillo

Saks makes commitment to home

What was once the children's department at Saks Fifth Avenue's flagship store in Manhattan has been transformed into the newly renovated home department.

"Home was previously tucked away" in a space of about 1,500 square feet, said Wayne Meichner, executive vp, merchandising. "It was not enough to be credible in the business."

Now in a 6,200-square-foot area — and with the room to expand, he said — the home department commands a strong presence on the eighth floor. Sectioned off into several living areas — instead of "boring" departments — each has its own aesthetic. The living room area, for example, is currently modeled after an urban city apartment, with modern elements. The kitchen area feels more French country. The bedding area makes a simple, elegant statement.

"The home is not all about one aesthetic," Meichner said, as many people use different looks throughout their house — or houses. The areas will also be changed seasonally or quarterly, he said.

"We've had a great response so far," said Laura Belvedere, vp, dmm, home and children's. "We have a long way to go, but business has been strong."

The revamped department also debuted new categories for the store, including game tables, CDs, stereos and stationery. Currently, there are three buyers for this department, though Meichner noted that more would be added because of the growth.

Bedding has seen the greatest expansion in textiles, Belvedere said. Before, it consisted of some Frette, but was managed by intimate apparel buyers. "We weren't in the bedding business at all," she said.

Frette has two dressed beds in the department — a fashion-forward look and a timeless, white look. A white king-sized duvet in Frette's Hotel Collection retails for $340. Another twin bed was dressed in quilts from Le Rideau de Paris (king-sized quilt, $1,695).

Throws, pillows and rugs warm up the modern-looking living area, and Meichner noted that the smaller pillows and throws are doing very well for the department. Saks has deepened its assortment of throws and cushions, Belvedere said. Rugs are being tested and are only special order right now.

In typical Saks style, products include an $1,875 rabbit throw, a $485 embellished Anichini pillow and a $4,990 5' x 7' wool rug. Ferragamo also had a display of pillows available.

Table linens is another important category for Saks that was expanded, Belvedere said. The biggest addition was linens from Le Jacquard Francais, in tea towels, cloths, napkins and place mats.

The bath area, which primarily stock soaps and lotions, also offers a limited amount of towels.

And even though Saks is waiting to see how the new department performs, Meichner said that elements of the renovation would be transferred to the retailer's other 61 stores.

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