Seymour Line Drives Saks Home Business

Retail Editor 1, Carole Sloan, November 15, 2004

Birmingham, Ala. — Better quality fashion home textiles with newness and value as key parts of the mix are driving sales at Saks Department Store Group (SDSG).

And the Jane Seymour bedding “continues to be the strong driver of business,” said Howard Winkler, senior vice president, home in an interview during the preview of the latest Seymour collection in New York last week.

For the first time, SDSG will offer towels, sheets and basic bedding outside the Jane Seymour shops in its stores. These products will be featured in the main category departments. “The goal overall,” Winkler noted, “is to have Jane represent 25 percent of home textiles volume.”

Primarily, explained Winkler, “Customers relate to Jane, and the styling and price points are what department stores needed to get the department store customer back.”

The best selling comforter set in the Jane Seymour collection is $450 for the queen size, he noted. What that tells him “is that we need to worry more about the fashion and quality customer who wants new and fashionable merchandise, but value is still important. And as we move forward, our focus on more fashion and value will help us move up in price points.”

In contrast, Winkler pointed to some recent competitive department store promotions of comforters priced in the teens and twenties as not being directed to the department store customer. Asked who this customer is, he replied “a 30- to 55-year-old woman in the moderate to upper income level who is looking for a better shopping experience.”

And Seymour's success story over the past year is influencing other product areas in the Saks department stores, Winkler related. Memory foam mattress pads and pillows are another example of the “luxury sleeping experience” that is paying off for the stores. Basic pillows and pads in better constructions are another. And down is being merchandised as an extension of fashion bedding — in color — and it now represents 75 percent of the category's volume, Winkler said.

Within Seymour's own collections as well as bed-in-a-bag, coordinated window treatments are increasingly important, he said. In the bed ensembles, “just one extra decorative pillow takes the dollar sale up,” and each bed has a range of pillows, many offering a more feminine or neutral decorating look.

As part of the move upward in fashion, newness and price points, “we have shifted our bed-in-a-bag to $149 to $249, and not as much one price, all sizes,” he said.

Discussing one of the recent home textiles market's buzz subjects, Winkler said “retailers must recycle things through. You have to cycle down patterns and bring in new. If you stop doing that you're dead.”

But he cautioned against an aggressive program of cycling, noting that of Seymour's first six patterns, two remain on the floor as strong sellers, and one of the two in the second collection is still an important seller. And overall, he noted, Elderberry from last season's collection is the number one in the group.”

To maintain the Seymour collection from a presentation and in-stock perspective, SDSG has a weekly service tour the stores to keep the program on the mark, Winkler said.

The new collection — Grand Hotel-Mackinac Island — has three new design statements: Mackinac Island, Veranda and Carriage. Mackinac uses a tree of life motif print while Veranda is a cotton/silk blend stripe comforter set and Carriage is a 400-count cotton sateen with embroidery trim and pearls and ruffles as embellishments.

New to the Seymour mix is a bistro set, birdhouses, silk florals, cut glass candlesticks, clocks and vases as well as a collection of teapot base lamps. Coming next, said Winkler, are crystal hollowware and stemware.

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