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Saks department stores go unique on up end, competitive on mass product

New York — Proprietary product now makes up more than a quarter of the merchandise at Saks Inc.'s Saks Department Store Group in its efforts to combat the issues, such as sameness of product, the department store industry has been facing. The division will also compete with discounters on certain branded products.

Speaking at Credit Suisse First Boston's Retail, Apparel, Food/Drug, Restaurant and REIT conference here this week, Brad Martin, chairman and ceo, said that merchandise differentiation includes procuring merchandise from unique vendors, selections from emerging suppliers or exclusive product from core vendors. The private-label programs, which were at 17 percent two years ago, now account for 26 percent of the overall assortment.

One such program in the home area is its exclusive agreement with Jane Seymour, who has "an enormous following in the U.S.," Martin said. "Consumer interest is extraordinary " and the program has begun to hit the stores."

SDSG has also addressed pricing issues, and 15 percent to 20 percent of its branded merchandise that is also available through the mass channel will be competitively priced. "We will not be undersold on products of that nature."

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