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Saks ups the ante with higher average tickets

Though customer traffic is down throughout retail, including Saks, the company is getting more from its core customers, netting a higher average transaction at Saks Fifth Avenue and maintaining the average in its Saks Department Store Group, said Brad Martin, chairman and ceo, during the company's recent third quarter conference call.

Its credit card program is also solid, executives said, and delinquency was not significantly different at the end of the third quarter as compared to the same period last year. The card's penetration, as a percentage of sales, is up 100 basis points to 45 percent. Martin added that the company manages the credit card program conservatively seeking long term growth.

For the fourth quarter, Saks Department Stores Group (SDSG) will concentrate its sales on key items, differentiated product and gift giving. "Must have" key items — which include down comforters and throws — will be presented with "authority and meaningful quantity," said Martin. These items represent 17 percent of SDSG's sales during the fourth quarter. Saks executives estimated that about 20 percent of the merchandise will consist of key items, as well as a very small portion of seasonal goods.

Differentiated product, which includes private label and vendors not generally available at its competitors, will represent about 25 percent of the assortment this year. The division will also intensify its gift giving concept, supported with fixturing and signage.

SDSG will have gift wrap express stations, where customers can drop off their gifts to be wrapped, allowing the customer to continue shopping. In some stores, it will test giving the customers pagers to let them know when the gift is wrapped. It has also added comfort zones and living room areas in 60 stores, which will be added to the majority of stores next year.

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